Biofortification – a tool to fight nutrient deficiency
Authors: Aninda Chakraborty, Debarati Nandi, Sanjoy Kumar Bordolui* & Manab Kanti Mahato
Pages: 1-14, 2020
Biofortification is an upcoming, promising, cost-effective, and sustainable technique of delivering micronutrients to a population that has limited access to diverse diets and other micronutrient interventions. Unfortunately, major food crops are poor sources of micronutrients required for normal human growth. Biofortification” or “biological fortification” refers to nutritionally enhanced food crops with increased bioavailability to the human population that are developed and grown using modern biotechnology techniques, conventional plant breeding, and agronomic practices. A major challenge of our time is that one sixth of the world’s population suffers from hunger, a situation which is totally unacceptable. In addition, many more people, over half of the global population, are afflicted by a different form of food deficiency (FAO, 2004). The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization have estimated that around 792.5 million people across the world are malnourished, out of which 780 million people live in developing countries. Apart from this, around two billion people across the world suffer from another type of hunger known as “hidden hunger,” which is caused by an inadequate intake of essential micronutrients in the daily diet despite increased food crop production. India’s performance on key malnutrition indicators is poor according to national and international studies. According to UNICEF, India was at the 10th spot among countries with the highest number of underweight children, and at the 17th spot for the highest number of stunted children in the world. Harvest Plus is a Challenge Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It leads a global effort to breed and disseminate micronutrient-rich staple food crops to reduce hidden hunger among malnourished populations. It is an interdisciplinary program that works with academic and research institutions, civil society organizations, governments, and the private sector in more than 40 countries. It develops new, more nutritious varieties of staple food crops that provide higher amounts of vitamin A, iron, or zinc – the three micronutrients identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as most lacking in diets globally. To do this, Harvest Plus and CIAT use biofortification as the process of increasing the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop, through plant breeding or agronomic practices, so that when consumed regularly will generate measurable improvement in vitamin and mineral nutritional status.