POSSIBLE USE OF A BIOTECHNOLOGICAL APPROACH TO OPTIMIZE AND REGULATE THE CONTENT AND DISTRIBUTION OF CYANOGENIC GLUCOSIDES IN CASSAVA TO INCREASE FOOD SAFETY.
One goal of our research program is to be able to understand why some plants produce cyanogenic glucosides and to find out whether it will be possible to down-regulate the production of these compounds in crop plants to increase food safety. If complete elimination of the cyanogenic glucosides results in plants sensitive to pests or with other undesired characteristics, then the cyanogenic glucosides should be eliminated or specifically reduced only in those parts of the plants used for human consumption. The techniques of molecular biology will enable us to obtain such plants but probably not within the next decade.
The possible role of cyanogenic glucosides in plants is very difficult to assess at present since many argued functions are not properly documented in the literature. The most solid documented effect of cyanogenic glucosides is that their presence actually increases the sensitivity of at least some plants to fungal attack apparently by lowering the plants ability to produce defense compounds like phytoalexins.
In this paper several opinions we often have heard presented at meetings on cassava, cyanogenic glucosides and toxicity are discussed although these opinions in many cases are not scientifically documented. Thus no citations to literature can be given. It is important that more research is carried out on cassava so that solid answers can be provided to some of these fundamental questions raised.