01 July 2008

Bill Gates Develops "Miracle Cassava" That Has Everything a Person Needs to Live


These magic roots have been gene engineered by plant molecular biologists at Ohio State University and other centers--using a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation--to provide all the nutrition that a human being needs.
The labs in the project have used a variety of techniques to improve on the model cassava plant used for the research. They used genes that facilitate mineral transport to produce a cassava root that accumulates more iron and zinc from the soil. To fortify the plants with a form of vitamin E and beta-carotene (also called pro-vitamin A because it converts to vitamin A in the body), the scientists introduced genes into the plant that increase terpenoid and carotenoid production, the precursors for pro-vitamin A and vitamin E. They achieved a 30-fold increase in pro-vitamin A, which is critical for human vision, bone and skin health, metabolism and immune function.

Adding protein to the cassava plant has posed a challenge, Sayre said. The scientists discovered that most of the nitrogen required to make the amino acids used for protein synthesis in roots is derived from the cyanogens that also cause cyanide toxicity. So their strategy for increasing protein levels in roots focuses on accelerating the conversion of cyanide-containing compounds into protein rather than completely eliminating cyanogen production, which would hinder the efforts to increase protein production, Sayre explained. To further address the cyanide problem, the scientists have also developed a way to accelerate the processing methods required to remove cyanide -- a days-long combination of peeling, soaking and drying the roots before they are eaten.

To strengthen the cassava plant's resistance to viruses, the scientists introduced a protein and small interfering RNA molecules that interfere with the viruses' ability to reproduce.

Prolonging cassava's shelf life has involved the development of a hybrid species that crosses two related plants native to Texas and Brazil. The strategy, still in development, will combine the properties of these plants and additional genes that function as antioxidants, slowing the rotting process that has been traced to the production of free radicals that damage and kill cells in newly harvested cassava roots. __ScienceDaily
The potential of genetically engineered plants has always been a huge one. Agricultural analysts and economists who base their projections upon the crops that they are familiar with will soon find themselves at a total loss, as plants specially engineered for specific purposes begin to make their appearances.

Making a cassava or a potato or rice or maize etc that has all the nutritional needs for humans is a good, humane early step. Designing plants that dispense fuels, specialty chemicals, patented pharmaceuticals, and alcoholic fruit drinks should not take much longer. Drug enforcement officials should understand that eventually, ordinary plants will start making the very drugs they have tried so hard to restrict access to. Plants do what their DNA tells them to do, to the best of their ability. DNA is simply code. Code can be hacked.

The news media tries to keep viewers and readers in an uproar over "energy shortages" and "food shortages" and the end of the world from "climate change" etc. But if an African villager can grow all the food his family needs in a small patch behind the house, why would he need to riot over food prices? If a small grove of trees can provide the village with all the diesel oil it needs, why would villagers riot over fuel costs? Do not such developments, along with new ways of providing vaccines and prevention and treatment for common diseases constitute a type of "singularity" for rural third world villagers?

Of course, if the villagers take advantage of relative plenty to increase their numbers unwisely, Malthus may have the last laugh. But if women villagers are made aware of a certain easily grown fruit that acts as a contraceptive, perhaps women's rights will come to the third world after all.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

11 Comments:

Blogger SwampWoman said...

Theoretically possible and having a working model with all the gene splicing are very different things.

Hope it works out. And tastes good.

Tuesday, 01 July, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

Looks promising.

Tuesday, 01 July, 2008  
Blogger Markku said...

Of course, if the villagers take advantage of relative plenty to increase their numbers unwisely, Malthus may have the last laugh. But if women villagers are made aware of a certain easily grown fruit that acts as a contraceptive, perhaps women's rights will come to the third world after all.

The men would hardly remain as clueless as to let women keep access to such plants. This is why tribalism or multi-ethnic states are hopeless. Each tribe or ethnic group will be forced to keep up with the race to reproduce attain political power.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger Will Brown said...

Does it taste like almonds do you suppose?

To further address the cyanide problem, the scientists have also developed a way to accelerate the processing methods required to remove cyanide -- a days-long combination of peeling, soaking and drying the roots before they are eaten.

So, all a human needs to survive ... if you start cooking next week's supper now. Taste testing the broth will be punishable by death.

Does anyone else see this as being just a bit problamatic?

Futurist or not, if I want something that tastes "just like chicken", I'll grill a dead bird.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger IConrad said...

Does anyone else see this as being just a bit problamatic?

Futurist or not, if I want something that tastes "just like chicken", I'll grill a dead bird.


Simple luddism. Here's why:

Many foods require processing before being cooked. This is a familiar thing to all the world's peoples; we have for example been making flours for millennia.

The process to make this cassava root digestible, then, is similar to the creation of flour. Which is further emphasized by the fact that the tubers would then be /dried/ -- and dried tubers can last for several months; longer, if you grind them up as well.

As to the dead bird thing... you may not be getting that opportunity forever; cloned meat cells, it turns out, can be printed via standard inkjet technology without damaging the cells. The same goes for lipidinous and lignin tissues.

This means, effectively, that a more 'advanced' model could clone the cells necessary to produce meat that is physically indistinguishable from that taken from dead animals... yet never have known life as an animal.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger Theodore Breehn said...

I heard their calling the vista strain.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger Will Brown said...

See, this is what happens when you reach for the snark and don't clearly label the result.

@ ICONRAD:

Does it help any to point out the provided context:

Do not such developments, along with new ways of providing vaccines and prevention and treatment for common diseases constitute a type of "singularity" for rural third world villagers? (My bold)

As it happens, I am generally familiar with the mechanisms by which foods can be processed into alternative conditions. To the best of my knowledge, however, these technologies aren't extensively practiced in the environs described in Al Fin's post (specifically, see my bold above). It is also my general understanding that most of those processed foods are not poisonous in their unprocessed state.

As to my "dead bird" bit of snidery (is this an actual word?); I already get my grilling components third-hand. I don't actually raise, slaughter and butcher my own chickens here in my apartment. I contract for those services via the marketplace. You, presumably not writing from a rural third world locale, may be familiar with the concept, we commonly refer to them as "supermarkets". So, whether or not my "dead bird" actually came into existence on a farm or a petri dish is of little difference to me given my present remove from the source.

Just to round this whole thing out, I think the whole "frankenfoods" effort here to be truely inspiring in intent and praise-worthy as a successful experiment. Like all such, the result contains segments that still need further refinement or removal to better achieve the stated goal. I submit that my previous post illustrated that state of affairs in the Gates-funded effort under discussion in a mildly humorous fashion.

Opinions vary, obviously.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger IConrad said...

As it happens, I am generally familiar with the mechanisms by which foods can be processed into alternative conditions. To the best of my knowledge, however, these technologies aren't extensively practiced in the environs described in Al Fin's post (specifically, see my bold above). It is also my general understanding that most of those processed foods are not poisonous in their unprocessed state.

... we're talking about peeling, soaking, and drying roots in order to leach the cyanide out. Note that the foodstuff in question is //intended for end-use by subsistence-level populations.// Which rather means that if the soaking required a solvent, it would have been mentioned.

Get a clue, man.

And if you are *that* familiar, then you should also be familiar with the fact that flatbreads and the like have been used and made by subsistence-level populations for over ten thousand years.

And guess what -- that's a form of... processing. As is the above.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger SwampWoman said...

Cassava has been eaten by rural Africans for generations. I believe they have that whole processing thing down.

I'm curious as to what the genetic additions will do to the appearance and taste. If you give me a genetically engineered meat product and it smells and tastes like Brussels sprouts, I may not be very enthusiastic about adopting it even if it is good for me.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger IConrad said...

The potential for taste modulation on this is enormous.

Added proteins tend to "smooth" the texture. Keratines are what make carrots taste that way. Reducing the sugar content will mitigate the starchiness. The increased iron and manganese contents will also modify the flavor.

It'll probably taste quite similarly to glue.

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

a cheap and effective cure for hunger in poor third world countries? it'll never happen. unless it somehow creates fear, kills innocent people, starts a war, or in some other way increases the money and or power of the wealthy gods of earth...

Monday, 07 July, 2008  

Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts
``