Crop Biotech Update

GE Cassava to Address Vitamin B6 Deficiency in Africa

November 11, 2015

Scientists from the University of Geneva and ETH Zurich reported a new genetically engineered cassava variety that produces high levels of vitamin B6. The results are published in Nature Biotechnology.

Cassava is rich in calories but lacks vitamin content. It has a small amount of vitamin B6, and to achieve the required daily amount of vitamin B6, one has to eat over 1 kilogram of cassava everyday. Prof. Teresa Fitzpatrick from the University of Geneva discovered two enzymes (PDX1 and PDX2) in Arabidopsis which are involved in the production of vitamin B6 and used this discovery to pump up vitamin B6 in cassava. The scientists introduced the genes that code for the production of the enzymes into the cassava genome, leading to new cassava lines with increased amounts of vitamin B6. Furthermore, greenhouse and field trials showed that the new cassava lines are stable and vitamin B6 is bioavailable in the plants.

When these cassava lines become available to the public, it could prevent vitamin B6 deficiency particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where cassava is considered as one of the most important staple crops.

Know more about the project from ETH Zurich.