The ICAR-Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI) in Thiruvananthapuram has embarked on a ₹4 crore research project for developing new tapioca varieties with waxy or high-amylose starches that are useful in industry with the help of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology.

Waxy starch has uses in food products, adhesives, textile and pharmaceuticals, a press release said.

Tapioca (cassava) varieties available in India have limited scope in industry owing to their starch composition, which, on an average, is 20 per cent amylose and 80 per cent amylopectin.

Altering starch composition

CTCRI said that “if we can develop varieties wherein the starch composition is altered as 0-10 per cent amylose and 90-100 per cent amylopectin, it becomes waxy starch. When the starch composition is altered as 70 percent amylose and 30 per cent amylopectin, it becomes high amylose starch. High amylose starch has applications in the functional food industry, has low glycemic index and also acts as a gut protectant prebiotic, feeding the gut bacteria, thereby improving colon health.”

It is also used in low-calorie food products and in biofilms, coatings, textiles and paper.