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More info needed about cassava a positive effort

Rising food prices and the retaliatory civic unrest spreading around the world has seen the Government and the Opposition issuing similar warnings of a developing crisis posing a major threat to Jamaica.

Budget watchers would have scored points for the Opposition's Omar Davies who landed the first punch on this subject in his presentation last Tuesday, while analysts are still considering the merits and demerits of Agriculture Minister Tufton's proposals made the following day.

While Mr Tufton's speech demonstrated detailed homework and preparation, one of the major planks of his proposals contained in a massive grow-and-eat cassava drive, left unclear his reasoning and conclusions that eating bammies and related products offers a fix for nutrition.

A positive effort

To the credit of the Government, the cassava strategy does represent a positive effort to decrease dependence on food imports and provide a substitute for wheat flour, a self-sufficiency approach missing from the raft of solutions being brought to bear on the crisis by some other countries that appear to be focusing singularly on price controls and subsidies.

On that note he scored heavily with his emphasis on self-sufficiency to be manifested through a national food planting drive, the welcome return to and expansion of a school garden programme, an urban backyard garden programme, and the implementation of technology-driven programmes and food security initiatives.

Agricultural output

The thrust of the minister's argument was the necessity for the nation to increase agricultural output and to seek self-sufficiency in food. This is in keeping with a UNESCO report issued in the face of the developing food crisis and supported by 60 countries, which called for increased local food production using sustainable and environmentally friendly methodology.

It was in the nutrition field, however, that Tufton failed to do a convincing job, as the jury is still out on the merits of cassava as a value product in terms of protein and other nutrients.

We would like to hear more on this from the experts in the field as much more than a ministerial decree will be needed to mount the type of cultural campaign, backed up by solid data, in order to persuade consumers accustomed to one of the most varied and appetizing culinary habits in the world, to accept any dramatic change in their staple diets as addressed by the cassava option.

The Government and the Opposition must meet as one on this and the related issues.

There is growing tension around the world as concerns over the cost of living, and in some extreme cases the cost of survival, create social unrest in economies already battered by higher fuel costs.

Urgent action

UNESCO estimates that price hikes and shortages affect developing countries more than industrialised nations, and activists and policymakers have warned that the unrest will spread unless there is urgent action taken to stave off this crisis.

In that regard, the fabled king of an era long gone had no qualms about a similar situation facing his kingdom, nor his response to his chief-of-staff's warning that the peasants had revolted and were making a food march on the palace.

"Double the guard on the pantry", was the monarch's immediate response. The world has no such room in which to move.

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Danforth Center Spearheads Effort to Sequence Cassava at National Research Center

U.S. Department Of Energy Joint Genome Institute To Initiate Genome Sequencing That Will Influence Development Of Breeding And Biotech Tools

St. Louis, MO – The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) recently announced that it selected a proposal organized by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to conduct genome sequencing of the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta). Dr. Claude M. Fauquet, principal investigator from the Danforth Center, led a consortium comprised of over a dozen scientists from 11 institutions that submitted the proposal to the DOE JGI.

“Sequencing the cassava genome will help bring this important crop to the forefront of modern science and generate new possibilities for agronomic and nutritional improvement,” said Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel laureate, father of the “Green Revolution,” and Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture, Texas A&M University. “It is a most welcome development, especially for millions of the world’s poor who depend upon cassava for their sustenance.”

“This new cassava project builds on the past participation of the Danforth Center in the maize and soybean genome sequencing programs to now focus on a crop for the developing-world,” Danforth President Dr. Roger N. Beachy explained. “Dr. Claude M. Fauquet is a recognized leader in cassava biology and biotechnology, co-chair of the Global Cassava Partnership, and he will collaborate with Dr. Brad Barbazuk, a bioinformatics specialist at the Danforth Center, and with genomics experts from TIGR and Broad Institute, to apply the project’s data in future work to enhance cassava.”

“The successful lobbying of the DOE JGI by the Danforth Center to sequence the cassava genome validates its importance as a high starch producing crop. The acquisition of the cassava genome sequence will facilitate our understanding of this crop and its relatives within the relatively under explored Euphorbiaceae family,” Dr. Fauquet announced. “These tools will link genes to genetic and physical maps to accelerate breeding programs, identify cassava gene targets for biotechnology development, and provide a platform to explore the vast biodiversity within cassava wild species. Ultimately these activities will improve food security for developing countries by increasing cassava crop yield and its nutritional quality, and will position cassava as a valuable source of renewable bio-energy.”

“Cassava is a root crop that accumulates large quantities of starch with an unrivaled efficiency, and represents an important source of calories within many developing countries. The cassava genome sequence will enable scientists to apply the knowledge gained from the current collections of plant genomic, proteomic and metabolomic data to cassava, thus enabling a better understanding of the molecular basis of cassava development, morphology and physiology,” said Dr. Barbazuk.

The DOE JGI chose to sequence cassava because it is an excellent energy source. Its roots contain 20-40% starch that costs 15-30% less to produce per hectare than starch from corn, making it an attractive and strategic source of renewable energy. Cassava grows in diverse environments, from very dry to extremely humid, from acidic to alkaline soils, from sea level to high altitudes, and in nutrient-poor soil. Moreover, it is grown worldwide as a source of food for approximately 1 billion people, raising the possibility that it could be used globally to alleviate dependence on fossil fuels. The effort to sequence the cassava genome will be aided by alignments to the genomes of poplar and castor bean, plants closely related to cassava, and available cassava BAC libraries and EST and cDNA sequences will facilitate annotation. This project will elucidate the genetic machinery required for efficient energy production in a range of environments, and the information it yields will enable improvement to a wide range of crops important for the U.S. biofuel supply.

In addition to the Danforth Center, the consortium includes the United States Department of Agriculture, Washington University in St Louis, the University of Chicago, The Institute for Genomic Research, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Broad Institute, Ohio State University, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and the Smithsonian Institution.

About The DOE Joint Genome Institute
The DOE Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five national laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest, along with the Stanford Human Genome Center to advance genomics in support of the DOE mission related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and clean-up. DOE JGI’s Walnut Creek, Calif. Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. Additional information about DOE JGI can be found at:

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a global vision to improve the human condition. Research at the Danforth Center will enhance the nutritional content of plants to improve human health, increase agricultural production to create a sustainable food supply, and build scientific capacity to generate economic growth in the St. Louis region and throughout Missouri.

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Mother Earth Products

Mother Earth Products, Inc. started in 1984 as a manufacturer, producer, and trader of agri-based products in Barangay Pampanga, Angeles City. Initially, the company embarked on cassava meat production for livestock feeds and charcoal (from Ipil-ipil) briquette processing for the local market. Cassava production is now under contract farming arrangements, while charcoal was discontinued due to the “jumping lice” infections afflicting Ipil-ipil trees.

In 1989, the company went into cattle breeding and fattening operations with a small abattoir which was expanded in 1990. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in June 1991 and caused market dislocation, the company turned to feedlot operations and produced high value beef cuts and processed meat. It was able to recover from the effects of the Pinatubo eruption when it penetrated the market outside Pampanga.

Expanded sales motivated the company to establish an “AA” abattoir with cold storage facilities and expand its products to fresh and frozen beef and pork as well as processed meat like tocino, hotdog, and ham.

In 1998, the company transferred its meat processing operations to a new plant in Duquit, Mabalacat, Pampanga, while maintaining its “AA” abattoir in Angeles City, Pampanga. It also started to develop other products such as sisig, hotdog and beef franks varieties, tapa and longganisa, ham varieties, smoked meat products. In 2002, the company inaugurated the first “AAA” abattoir in Central Luzon.

Trade Name: Mother Earth
Franchised Offered: Single Unit Franchise
Format: Others
Category: Retail
Initial Investment: Php 200,000
Contact Person: Mr. Jumbo Tayag
Contact No: (045) 892-6621
Address: Maunawa St. Barangay Daquit, Mabalacat, Pampanga
Target Franchise Area: Metro Manila , Visayas, Mindanao

Contact details:

Maunawa Street, Brgy. Duquit Mabalacat, Pampanga
Contact No: (6345) 892-6625 / 892-6543
Fax No: (6345) 332 3371

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Cassava in Britannica