Biofortified Crops Offer Potential Solution to Malnutrition
The problem of ‘hidden hunger’ — deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals — continues to pose serious threats to populations and economies around the world. A lack of micronutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamin A in diets can lead to blindness, disease, or even death, particularly for women and children under the age of five.
One solution currently being pursued by organizations like Good Food, a global network of food entrepreneurs with a shared goal of making food more nourishing, sustainable, equitable, and resilient, is enhancing the vitamin and mineral content of the staple crops that resource-poor families rely on for much of their diet. A range of the world’s staples has had their nutritional content boosted this way, from sweet potatoes to maize, rice, wheat, beans, and bananas.
The approach of biofortifying crops has so far found widespread success, with there now more than 300 varieties of 12 biofortified crops being grown in 35 countries and being tested in another 25, reaching at least 10 million farming households. 60 million people currently benefit from biofortified crops in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
These crops include:
- Sweet potato (vitamin A)
- Banana (vitamin A)
- Maize (vitamin A and zinc)
- Cassava (vitamin A)
- Beans (iron)
- Pearl millet (iron)
- Cowpea (iron and zinc)
- Irish potato (iron and zinc)
- Sorghum (iron and zinc)
- Lentil (iron and zinc)
- Rice (zinc)
- Wheat (zinc)
Biofortification does not entail any genetic modification. Rather, it refers to the method of increasing the vitamin and mineral density of a crop through plant breeding or agronomic practices. With this, biofortified crops appeal to many consumers, farmers, and business owners.
Additionally, biofortified crops are not just meat-free, they are also naturally and ethically produced. These nutrient-enriched crops are advantageous due to consumers’ preference for food products that are nutritious and have fewer synthetic ingredients.
Knowing these global food trends is highly beneficial for food entrepreneurs in increasing awareness among potential consumers and harnessing its marketing benefits. And with this technology, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone who eats, who sells, and who produces food.