Gillman, M. P. and Erenler, H. E.
The genetic diversity and cultural importance of cassava and its contribution to tropical forest sustainability.
Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, 6(3)
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Cassava has been cultivated in Central and South America for about 8000 years. Following export to Africa and Asia in the 16th-19th centuries it is now established as a vital component of the diet of many of the world's poorest people. Growth and processing of the plant in Central and South America represents one of the few remaining expressions of indigenous knowledge. This article highlights the importance of traditional methods of cultivation and processing in contributing to a large number of varieties and maintenance of high genetic diversity. Increasingly, such diversity is being supplemented by international breeding programs with the possibility of genetically modified crops to combat plant diseases and natural enemies such as cassava mosaic virus. The article examines the issues surrounding the patenting of traditional knowledge of cassava. It concludes by exploring cassava cultivation as a contribution to the sustainable utilization of species-rich tropical forests. This combines the maintenance of high genetic diversity of the crop with traditional practices of indigenous people, thereby satisfying the requirements of article 8(j) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
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