Just recently the world celebrated “World Food Day” on October 16th, the day that marks the foundation of Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. This day has being celebrated since 1945, and if we see 71 years down the line, “Malnutrition” continues to be one of the major problem that needs to be addressed. According to 2016 Global Nutrition Report of the International Food Policy Research Institute(IFPRI), malnutrition has been given the highest priority because it affects humankind adversely.

I will now introduce a term called “Biofortification,” which is a method that was devised by researchers in order to increase the amount of nutrients present in a food crop. So can we not use this technique to end malnutrition? Yes, we can. It is proven that biofortification can very well be used and practiced in order to generate food crops which would have higher nutrition value and tackle deficiency of micro-nutrients.

The 2016 World Food Prize has been awarded to Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low of the International Potato Research Centre, Peru and Howarth Bouis of HarvestPlus of CGIAR, for their work in successfully producing biofortified crops.

The IFPRI report brings out that the economic consequences of hunger are equally high with a loss of 11% of GDP every year in Africa and Asia. India is one of the worst affected with a high malnutrition burden.

How biofortification can be achieved?

  1. Promotion and cultivation of naturally biofortified crop (eg. Moringa oleifera )
  2. Mendelian breeding: Selective plants can be bred in order to increase the micro-nutrient content. In this method the germplasm of a crop; they are collected and analyzed for specific characters and traits. Once this is done, genetic recombination is carried out in order to produce a species of desired characters. These are then bred for two or more generations to get pure breeds.
  3. Genetic modification: Scientists have incorporated the concept of “Gene upregulation” in plants producing genetically modified plants. Every gene codes for a particular compound, say a specific nutrient, now if this gene is made to express more; the amount of nutrient produced will be more. This is called gene upregulation.   (Eg: Biofortified cassava)

This is a direct application of Biotechnology, Genetics, and Plant Biology in the welfare of mankind. Biofortified crops can become an absolute solution for ending hunger and malnutrition. It would have a large scale impact if biotechnologists are able to carry out research in this field and generate staple food crops with high nutritive value.

References:

[1] http://www.who.int/elena/titles/biofortification/en/ [2] http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/111/06/0965.pdf [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4522721/ [4] http://www.futureentech.com/2016/08/harvestplus-global-leader-in.html