La Jatropha curcas L. is a plant so resilient that it grows on arid soils, to offer sustainable proteins and vegetable fats useful to face the global crisis of food security. In addition to improving the quality of the soils and absorbing CO2. # sdgs2030.
1) Jatropha curcas L. A resilient and versatile plant
Jatropha curcas L. is a plant in the family of Euphorbiaceae (order Malpighials) and has oil-rich seeds. Its populations, wild or semi-cultivated, are widespread in many tropical regions in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and North America. (1) It adapts to adverse conditions (poorly fertile soils, drought, extreme temperatures) and to almost all types of soils, including those poor in organic matter, semi-arid and subject to degradation.
The fruits roundish of the Jatropha curcas L. they contain from one to four oval black stones, 2 cm long and 1 cm in diameter. After removing the black shell, a beige-colored grain is obtained (weight about 0,4-0,5 g). The seeds are mainly composed of fats (about 60%, of which 20% are saturated fats) and proteins (25-32%). In addition to fiber (approx. 8%), ashes and carbohydrates. Some varieties are not edible due to the presence of phorbol esters.
1.1) Traditional uses
A variety edible than jatropha, - known as piñon manso and free of PE (phorbol esters, phorbol esters) - it is grown in some regions of Mexico (eg Veracruz) and used to prepare a variety of traditional dishes. The history of consumption of its roasted seeds (xuta) is traced back to the Totonac culture (about 1500 BC). Roasting or cooking are necessary to make the beans tastier and more digestible, reducing the content of some thermolabile antinutritional components (eg phytic acid, trypsin inhibitors, lectins) which are also present in other vegetable matrices. (2)
Traditional medicine mexicana contemplates the use of every part of the plant jatropha (roots, stems, leaves, seeds and fruits) to treat bleeding, rheumatism, toothache, .. Thanks to the antimicrobial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties attributed to the plant. jatropha it is also used as an organic fertilizer, as it is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. (3) The kernels of inedible varieties have also been used, in recent decades, to produce biodiesel. While their spent cakes are considered as possible sources of protein to be used in feed, after the decontamination of the PE.
2) Jatropha curcas L. Authorization procedure Novel Food in the EU
JatroSolutions GmbH has selected an edible variety of Jatropha curcas L. (cultivate called EdibleNut) and organized a production chain that allows to guarantee its genomic identity through a specific marker molecular, in order to prevent and control any risks of cross-contamination with non-edible varieties of the same plant.
The request authorization as Novel Food - carried out through the extensive production of studies, analyzes and data requested by EFSA during the scientific evaluation - concerns the use of the kernels of this Jatropha curcas L. (Chuta®) such as:
- whole food, to be consumed as'snacks, like other nuts', And
- food ingredient (whole kernels or their fragments, excluding flour) in a series of food matrices. Target of proposed consumption is the general population (adolescents and adults).
2.1) EFSA's favorable opinion
Il panel EFSA NDA (Nutrition, Novel Foods, Food Allergens) - thanks also to the contribution of Working Group on Compendium of Botanicals, Eirini Kouloura and Petra Gergelova - published on 21.1.22 a favorable scientific opinion on the request submitted by JatroSolutions GmbH.
Opinion of EFSA considers the suitability of the criteria adopted by JatroSolutions GmbH to ensure:
- segregation of the EdibleNut cultivar starting from the reproduction of the vegetative material and its cultivation in suitable areas (at tropical latitude),
- processing and transformation processes, to be carried out in the EU, capable of controlling and maintaining any traces of phorbol esters within food safety levels,
- substantial absence of biological and process contaminants (eg acrylamide, furans, 3-MCPD, GE), heavy metals, pesticide residues.
2.2) Data protection and exclusivity
The question of authorization a Novel Food includes a request for the protection of proprietary data (pursuant to EU regulation 2015/2283, article 26), in relation to:
- composition, nutritional information, allergens, biological and process contaminants,
- Chuta cultivation management, tests of shelf-life (1 year), Phorbol esters analysis methods (developed and following the best practices, in agreement with the EFSA NDA panel),
- control procedures for phorbol esters, hydrothermal treatment, molecular markers, expected intake and toxicological information. (4)
3) jatropha, prospects for sustainable development
Jatropower - Swiss company established in Baar (Zurich, Switzerland) in 2018 - has introduced a model of business innovative that is based on the cultivation of some cultivate di jatropha in uncultivated and unproductive land. Without making monocultures or resorting to artificial irrigation, or to pesticides and herbicides. (5) The innovation of Jatropower - already awarded by the Swiss Solar Impulse foundation of Prof. Bertrand Piccard - has started with some pilot plantations in India and Madagascar.
The perspectives of sustainable development deserve attention in several respects:
- food security. Jathropa offers the possibility of producing sustainable vegetable proteins and fats, respecting biodiversity, even at the level of peasant agriculture on a microscopic scale. # SGD1, # SDG2,
- soil protection. The plant can stem the degradation of soils and contribute to the restoration of their fertility. It could therefore be cultivated in the millions of hectares afflicted by desertification. (6) # SGG14,
- climate change. Jathropa it has the ability to sequester significant quantities of carbon in the atmosphere. # SDG13. And it is the carbon credit market, presumably, that motivates Swiss investors. (7)
Cover image from CABI, Invasive species compendium, Jatropha curcas (jatropha) https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/28393
(1) Renata Alleva. Lectins: what they are and what effects they have on health. Alce Nero. 9.3.20,
(2) Nidia Araiza (2016). Evaluación morphology, bioquímica and genetic diversity of the Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) and Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) of Noroeste de México. Centro de Investigaciones biológicas del Noroeste, Mexico. https://bit.ly/3yVSjRY
(3) EFSA (2022). Safety of hydrothermally treated kernels from edible Jatropha curcas L. (Chuta) as a novel food pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. doi: https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2022.6998
(4) Some precedents in the cases of fruit of the miracle and some turmeric extracts. See also Dario Dongo, Giulia Torre. Notification procedure for traditional foods from third countries such as Novel Foods in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.3.22,
(5) Jatropower develops new business model for long-term profitable removal of CO2 from the atmosphere with plantations on fallow land. PRNewswire. 16.6.22, https://prn.to/3v8cX0g
(6) Dario Dongo, Giulia Torre. Desertification and soil degradation, PRIMA's research and innovation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 22.6.22,
(7) Dario Dongo, Giorgio Perrone. Carbon farming and carbon certificates in agriculture, the EU project. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.2.22.