FAO Calls for Investment into Research on Cassava to Boost Yields for Food and Biofuel Production

Global Cassava Partnership for Genetic Improvement (GCP21)

25 July 2008: At the first global scientific conference of the Global Cassava Partnership, held from 21-24 July, 2008 in Ghent, Belgium, scientists and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for a significant increase in investment in research and development needed to boost farmers' yields and explore promising industrial uses of cassava, including biofuels production.

Scientists argue that current cassava yields, the staple food of nearly a billion people in poor countries, are “barely 20 percent of those under optimum conditions.” The crop thus bears significant potential for yield increases, both as food source and as feedstock for biofuel production. Cassava is the cheapest source of starch, which can be fermented to produce ethanol, although FAO cautions that “policies encouraging a shift to biofuel production should carefully consider its effects on food production and food security.” The Global Cassava Partnership for Genetic Improvement is a consortium of international

organizations formed under the auspices of FAO's Global Cassava Development Strategy, including representatives from FAO, the International Center for tropical Agriculture, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, national research institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

Meeting participants reviewed the state and prospects of global cassava production and agreed on a number of projects and investments needed,

including: establishing a cassava chain delivery system to channel technical

advances to poor farmers; improving basic scientific knowledge of cassava;

expanding cassava's market share through development of post-harvest products;

and training cassava researchers in developing countries. [FAO press release] [FAO Global Cassava Development Strategy] [Global

Cassava Partnership for Genetic Improvement]