GOOD

One Tiny Orange Sweet Potato Could Change The World

This tuber is the stuff of legends

The last time you talked about sweet potatoes, we’re guessing the conversation went something like, “Sweet potato fries are the bomb dot com!” or maybe, just maybe, while sitting around a dinner table surrounded by friends you asked the philosophical question, “Hey guys, what’s the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?”


But what if we told you sweet potatoes just might be a godsend for millions of malnourished global citizens?

In June, four scientists with a sweet potato specialty (what a life) won the World Food Prize. Their work has been simple but profound—boosting the amount of Vitamin A and other nutrients in this easily cultivated staple crop, thus combating malnourishment in developing nations.

Vitamin A in particular has been a touchpoint for millions of impoverished individuals around the world. Research has shown that giving a Vitamin A capsule every six months to malnourished children could reduce their death rates by 25 percent.

One highly controversial solution is the genetically modified organism (GMO) Golden Rice, jacked up with loads of Vitamin A. Proponents of this crop frame it as the poster child for why GMOs are a boon to humanity. Opponents say that we should rely on organic ways of delivering Vitamin A, a naturally occurring element in some vegetables.

Enter the humble sweet potato.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]By 2030, we hope to reach a billion people with these bio-fortified crops.[/quote]

Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, Robert Mwanga of Uganda, and American Jan Low, all of whom work at the renowned International Potato Center in Peru, and Howarth (his nickname is “Howdy”!) Bouis of the D.C.-based HarvestPlus, have all spent many years researching sweet potato biofortification. According to Dan Charles of NPR, who trailed Andrade back in 2012, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, the nutrient which gives its distinct orange hue (see also: carrots). But the sweet potatoes in impoverished countries like Uganda and Mozambique have yellow or white flesh—their nutritional value is much lower. So the researchers took varieties of sweet potato that are much closer to what we eat here in the U.S., then figured out which ones would grow best in African soil. From 2007 to 2009 they distributed samples of these tubers to 24,000 farming households—the results were astoundingly positive.

But just because the team has been recognized on a global level doesn’t mean it has any plans of slowing down. In fact, the group says it aims to reach 10 million households by 2020. HarvestPlus founder Howarth Bouis adds, “By 2030, we hope to reach a billion people with these bio-fortified crops.”

It should be noted that biofortification can involve genetic modification; however, these sweet potato researchers used conventional breeding methods. It should also be noted that past winners of the World Food Prize have been GMO researchers—it’s not a deal breaker. Thankfully the sweet potato research evades all GMO controversy. And part of the researchers’ work is straight-up evangelism, convincing farmers to replace pale sweet potato varieties with their vividly hued cousins.

"We are still doing this: theater in villages, singing about orange flesh sweet potato, how good it is, how you feed it to your children, and showing recipes so that they get used to it," Andrade told Charles. One only hopes that sweet potato fries are included in the recipe book.

Food

Some beauty pageants, like the Miss America competition, have done away with the swimsuit portions of the competitions, thus dipping their toes in the 21st century. Other aspects of beauty pageants remain stuck in the 1950s, and we're not even talking about the whole "judging women mostly on their looks" thing. One beauty pageant winner was disqualified for being a mom, as if you can't be beautiful after you've had a kid. Now she's trying to get the Miss World competition to update their rules.

Veronika Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine pageant in 2018. After four days, she was disqualified because pageant officials found out she was a mom to 5-year-old son Alex, and had been married. Didusenko said she had been aware of Miss World's rule barring mother from competing, but was encouraged to compete anyways by pageant organizers.

Keep Reading Show less

One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.



It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less
via Sportstreambest / Flickr

Since the mid '90s the phrase "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" has been part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team's lexicon.

Over the past few years, the team has taken the field flying a black skull-and-crossbones flag with an acronym for the phrase, "GFBD" on the skull's upper lip. Supporters of the team also use it on social media as #GFBD.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture