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2-Plants: Non-GE virus-resistant cassava distributed in Nigeria

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TITLE:  IITA challenges Cassava Mosaic Disease in Nigeria
SOURCE: International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria
        Press Release PR.2003/1
DATE:   Jul 1, 2003

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IITA challenges Cassava Mosaic Disease in Nigeria

IBADAN, Nigeria: 1 July 2003 - IITA has launched a major project to
preempt an outbreak of virulent Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) in Nigeria--
an outbreak which could lead to food shortages in the cassava belt of the
country. The action has the support of the government of Nigeria, which
last week contributed $2.4 million dollars to the fight. This comes in
addition to $1.6 million already received from the Niger Delta
Development Commission (NDDC) and $300,000 in start-up funding from the
United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The two viruses, which are precursors to the most destructive form of the
disease, have already been found in the cassava belt of Nigeria and IITA
researchers believe that without prompt action, a repeat of what happened
in Uganda the 1990s is possible. There, CMD reduced the production of
cassava so much that there was real potential for famine. Fortunately,
scientists at IITA successfully bred cassava varieties that resist the
disease. These varieties were deployed with great success in Uganda.
Nevertheless, the disease has continued to spread into other countries
and Nigeria is now threatened.

In Nigeria, IITA plans to produce millions of new, disease-resistant,
cassava plantlets and cuttings and get them into the hands of Nigerian
farmers. The improved plants will not only resist the disease but will
also slow its spread to nonresistant varieties, acting as a barrier to
the advance. CMD is most often carried from plant to plant by white
flies; pinhead sized insects that feed on the cassava leaves. The virus
attacks the leaves, preventing normal photosynthesis. As a consequence,
the diseased plant stops producing storage roots.

Nigeria grows more cassava than any other country in the world. Any
reduction in cassava production could have incalculable effects on the
Nigerian economy and on the lives of the millions of Nigerians for whom
cassava is the major starch staple food.

The improved IITA varieties also produce more cassava per plant and their
distribution should lead to increases in total Nigerian production. As
part of the unique preemptive strategy, IITA and its partners from both
the Nigerian public and private sectors will work to establish value-
added industries and postharvest processing to ensure markets for the
increased production that is expected.

IITA is a center of excellence for agricultural research for the
development of Africa. Its goal is to enhance, in a sustainable and
environmentally friendly way, the livelihoods, well-being, and food
security of millions of Africans.


For further information contact:

David Mowbray
Head, Communications and Information
IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria
234 02 241 2626 ext. 2770 (Ibadan)
1 613 241 4009 (Canada)
Dr Alfred Dixon
Cassava Breeder
IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria
234 02 241 2626 ext. 2334
Dr Rodomiro Ortiz
Director, Research for
IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria
234 02 241 2626 ext. 2335


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