Teacher Vivian and Her Kit That Detects Cassava Cyanide

This article is originally posted on the Cebu Daily News website, and is written by Cris Evert Lato.

Dr. Vivian Topor developed the Cassava Cyanide Color Wheel Kit as an easy-to-use product to help farmers identify the level of cyanide content in cassava which lessens cases of cyanide poisoning from cassava consumption.


In 2015, Dr. Vivian Azucena-Topor heard the news that 31 students from Suclaran National High School in Guimaras fell ill after eating cassava cake.

The Ilongga chemistry professor of the University of the Philippines–Visayas (UPV) in Miag-ao, Iloilo, who selected “molecular studies on cassava” as her dissertation, was alarmed by the news.

“I had to do something to educate people so we can avoid cases of cyanide poisoning from cassava consumption,” said Topor, who is also the director of the Graduate Program Office at the UPV campus in Iloilo City.

Her commitment was translated into the “Cassava Cyanide Color Wheel Kit,” a simple and easy-to-use product which can be used by technicians and farmers in the field to check cyanide content of cassava variants.

Her invention of the kit earned Topor a place in the 2016 roster of honorees of an advocacy campaign, The Many Faces of the Teacher (TMFT), run by Bato Balani Foundation Inc. and Diwa Learning Systems. Topor, described as a community biochemist, was one of four teachers from among a dozen finalists nationwide who were honored at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino on Oct. 1 during an annual awarding event leading to the celebration of the Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5.

To use Tobor’s poison-detecting kit, a 100-mg cassava sample is placed inside a flat-bottom vial and is mixed with phosphate buffer solution. A peak rate paper is then introduced to the vial and is allowed to sit for 16 hours. The color of the paper changes.

Farmers can analyze the result using the color wheel where the darker color indicates higher percentage of cyanide. Topor drew inspiration from a testing kit sent to her from Australia.

“But I thought that we cannot always ask other countries every time we need something. If we can innovate, why not?” she said.


Cassava earned the reputation of being a dangerous root crop after a 2005 incident in Mabini, Bohol, claimed the lives of 30 children.

But Topor was quick to note that not all cassava variants are harmful to humans.

She said there are variants with higher cyanide percentage, which are used for making alcohol and starch, but there are variants fit for human consumption.

“People need to be educated about the nature of cassava to eliminate the fear of this root crop,” she said. Topor said cyanide is released by a cassava plant to protect itself from predators.

Industry standards note that variants with zero to 50 parts per million (ppm) are considered nontoxic variants. Between 50 to 100 ppm is moderately toxic while 100 and above is dangerously toxic.

This does not mean, however, that raw cassava with 150 ppm cannot be consumed.


But there are several ways to significantly bring down the cyanide levels in cassava.

When cooking cassava, Topor said the root crop should be peeled and cut in small pieces. When boiling cassava, do not put a lid over the pot.

“Cyanide is volatile, and it can escape at 26 degrees Celsius,” she said.

Topor said cassava is the kind of root crop that is not best eaten “fresh” or when just newly harvested.

She advised waiting two to three days before cooking the root crop as a freshly harvested cassava has higher cyanide content.

Married to African national Wollor Topor (also a professor who is a dean of a university in Liberia) who considers cassava as a staple food, Topor said she has learned to appreciate different ways on how cassava is prepared.

One of these products is gari, which is made from grated raw cassava.

At home, Topor said, the grated cassava is placed in a jute sack. The sack is tied and is left to ferment for three to seven days. The process helps reduce and detoxify the cyanide content of cassava.


Topor hoped that the education seminars she conducts would encourage farmers to plant more cassava especially that the DA is providing them with planting materials.

“I met many farmers who want to regain their productivity, but they just don’t know what to do,” she said.

Topor donated the first batch of kits to the Suclaran Barangay Council, fulfilling her promise to contribute to community education on food safety.

But Topor did not just stop here.

She built alliances and partnerships with the local government units and the Department of Agriculture so she can educate people about cassava in the Western Visayas region.

“My recommendation is to immediately spot-check the backyard farms planting cassava. Using the kits, we can immediately identify which variants produce higher levels of cyanide. If this is the case, the LGU can urge the farmers to replace the crop,” said Topor.

2016 Chemist Licensure Examination: Results

Please click on a link below to view the respective file:

Official Announcement from the PRC

2016 Topnotchers

2016 List of Successful Examinees

2016 Performance of Schools

Examinees qualified for registration as Chemical Technicians


For successful examinees, you may download the official invitation of the ICP to the Oath-Taking Ceremony by clicking on this link. Other pertinent information are also found in the said file.

The Oath-Taking Ceremony for successful examinees will be held on November 4 (Friday), 1PM at the Manila Hotel. Pre-registration for the said event is required. Please click on this link for more details.

Congratulations to this year’s board-passers, and welcome to the chemistry profession!

ICP Board Election 2016: Results

The ICP Election Committee is pleased to announce the results of the elections for ICP Board of Directors. The newly elected board members (in bold) who will serve from 2016 to 2019 are:

Dr. Fabian Dayrit (54)
Abstain (0)

Maj. Victor Drapete (53)
Abstain (1)

Ms. Ludivinia Avendaño (34)
Ms. Jennifer Maralit (19)
Abstain (1)

(Total Number of Votes: 54)

We would like to thank all those who voted / participated in this election. Let us all continue to support the different activities of ICP.

2016 ICP Election Committee
Dr. Glenn Alea (Chair)
Ms. Priscilla Samonte (Member)
Dr. Veronica Migo (Member)

ICP Board Election 2016: List of Candidates and How to Vote

Please click on the following names to view their respective curriculum vitae.

Fabian Dayrit, PhD (Ateneo de Manila University)

Col. Victor Drapete (PNP Crime Laboratory)

Ludivinia Avendaño (Zuellig Pharma Asia Pacific)
Jennifer Maralit (Optimal Laboratories, Inc.)


The Election will be up to 17 June 2016 (Friday). You may download the election ballot by clicking at this link. Additional instructions may be found on the said ballot. Please accomplish the ballot and send it via email to ICPComelec@gmail.com on or before 17 June 2016.

Dr. Myrna Mahinay is 2016 Outstanding Chemist

The Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP) is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Myrna Sillero-Mahinay as Outstanding Chemist of 2016 by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

Dr. Mahinay obtained her BS Chemistry degree from Silliman University and MS Chemistry degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman. In 1986, she placed ninth in the Chemist licensure examination. In 1997, she obtained her PhD in Chemistry from James Cook University in Australia, specializing in Inorganic Chemistry. She held postdoctoral fellowships at Okazaki Institute for Integrative Bioscience in Japan, and at the University of Miami in Florida, USA. At present, she is a professor of the Chemistry Department in Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City, where she has been teaching since 1978. Dr. Mahinay specializes on inorganic and bioinorganic chemistry.

Through the years, Dr. Mahinay became a sought-after expert in her field. In 1997 she was commissioned by the Senate Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources to assess the extent of mercury pollution in Mt. Diwalwal, a study she conducted until 1999. This led to a stricter implementation in the confiscation of smuggled mercury in the area, and the relocation of affected inhabitants out of the vicinity. Her other studies, notably on heavy metal analysis and how heavy metals affect living organisms, have been published in scientific journals and presented in local and international conferences.

Dr. Mahinay is also a builder of future leaders. Since 2001, she has been serving as a mentor to the Bridging Leader Fellows of the Mindanao Bridging Leadership Program, where she aims to improve the capacity of her mentees to achieve their leadership goals within the context of the issue they seek to resolve. In turn, her mentees develop positive solutions for their respective organizations and communities.

Indeed, this year’s Outstanding Chemist awardee is a well-rounded person: a passionate educator, a dedicated researcher, and an active enabler. Congratulations, Dr. Myrna Mahinay!