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May 18, 2011

Biofortified sorghum for Africa program receives $4 million grant

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (St. Louis, Missouri) and DuPont on May 4 announced a $4 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to bring healthier sorghum to underserved communities in Africa.

                       
The grant will help fund the completion of the development of biofortified sorghum, a more nutritious and digestible sorghum for Africans who depend upon sorghum as their staple diet.  DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred began working on the project in 2005 in conjunction with the African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Consortium, an Africa-led public-private partnership.  The ABS Consortium is a key partner in this project and will work to secure regulatory approvals and pursue production and deployment plans as Pioneer and Danforth complete product development.

Sorghum is a cereal that has many characteristics comparable to corn.  However, unlike corn, sorghum is naturally drought tolerant.  It provides calories and minimal nutrition in dry areas of Africa such as in the Sahel, the area of Africa just south of the Sahara desert.  The sorghum nutritional improvement project will permit greater levels of essential nutrients to be delivered to those who live in arid places where sorghum is relied upon as the staple food source.  Additionally, the biofortified sorghum may become important in new geographies as a result of the effects of climate change.

The project focuses on increased zinc and iron bioavailability through phytate reduction, improved protein digestibility and increased pro-vitamin A levels.  These key nutrients and micronutrients aid in child development, and reduce rates of diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, lower respiratory tract infections and curb Vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of acquired blindness in children in the developing world.

Pioneer is the lead technology provider and the Danforth Center will provide monitoring, evaluation and financial oversight with respect to the project milestones.

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