An Ambitious Genome Sequencing Project Is Tackling Africa’s Nutrition Crisis


Across Africa, some of the most nutritious crops are the indigenous, traditional foods that grow in the wild or in backyard gardens. People have eaten foods like amaranth, okra, and breadfruit for centuries, but most of them have never been grown in formal agriculture systems and their seeds never bred for qualities like yield or higher nutrient content. The continent’s major cash food crops are far less healthy grains, mainly corn and rice.

When Howard-Yana Shapiro, a world-renowned plant scientist and chief agricultural officer at the food giant Mars, Incorporated, attended a lecture about childhood stunting in Africa, at the University of California, Davis by Dr. Christine Stewart, he thought he could help by improving the quality of crops that millions in rural parts of the continent were already eating.

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