Biofortification: A Transformative Innovation to Unlock Agriculture for next Nutrition Revolution
Message from HarvestPlus
“HarvestPlus, a global program under Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) of Consultative Group for International Agriculture and Research (CGIAR), that improves nutrition and public health by developing and promoting biofortified food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals, providing global leadership on biofortification evidence and technology.”
Globally, more than two billion people did not have regular access to nutritious and sufficient food in 2019, this trend will affect people’s health, especially diets of women and children, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 (SOFI 2020) report. Stunting rates in India is about 38%, and anemia affects about 65 -70% of the preschool children and women. COVID 19 pandemic situation has brought renewed focus to healthy and nutritious food that is cost-effective, safe, locally accessible, and food supply chain resilience.
Staple foods form a major share of the resource-poor population’s daily diet, which provides energy requirements, but they do not provide most of the micronutrients required for healthy living. An affordable, diverse diet rich in micronutrients is still a challenge to many of the resource-poor population. By enhancing the micronutrient content of the energy‐rich staples, intakes of micronutrients can be increased.
Biofortification is a process of enhancing micronutrients in the staple food crops that people consume daily, developed by conventional breeding methods. They have all the traits that the farmers desire to grow, high in yield, disease resistance, and a measurable health impact on the populations when eaten daily. The advantages of biofortification are that it starts in the rural areas, it is cost-effective and sustainable. The focus of the program is on three micronutrients, iron, zinc, and vitamin-A, that are considered limiting in the diets of the resource-poor population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Biofortification has the potential to complement the existing interventions like fortification and supplementation to create far more impact. Biofortification was ranked fifth by the expert panel at the Copenhagen Consensus 2008.
HarvestPlus has developed partnerships with CGIAR centers- ICRISAT, CIMMYT, IRRI, ICARDA; ICAR, SAUs, Seed Companies, FPO’s and NGO’s for product development and dissemination. The focus of the program in India is on zinc-rich wheat, zinc-rich rice, and ironrich pearl millet that are major staples for millions. Seven hybrids, one variety of iron-rich pearl millet, and four zincrich wheat varieties have been developed in the partnership program. Ironrich pearl millet is grown in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana and Karnataka. Zinc -rich wheat is grown in UP, Bihar, and Punjab.
Agri-Food Value Chains and Enabling Agri-Policies for greater impact:
There are a growing market and shift of the health-conscious consumer space for naturally nutritious, healthy, wholesome foods and ingredients. Agri-Food partnerships can help to leverage investments, technology, and capacities to overcome the gaps in the existing supply chains for nutritious crops, help in creating traceability of raw materials supply, last-mile capabilities, systems, and processes to meet the supplydemand imbalance.
On the occasion of World Food Day, 16th October 2020, Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi dedicated biofortified crops to the nation. Prime Minister also stressed in this speech the plans to incorporate biofortified crops in the existing food and nutrition program (Midday Meal, PDS, ICDS, etc.), which can enhance the nutritional component of the food programs. These AgricultureNutrition linkages can create demand and incentivize farmers to increase the adoption of biofortified crops.
More than 50 million people globally consume and benefit from eating biofortified crops in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In India, an estimated 640,000 people, are benefiting from growing and eating iron-rich pearl millet and zincrich wheat. The mission of HarvestPlus is to reach One Billion people by 2030. To leap and reach these numbers requires innovative partnerships across the value chain.
Developing long-term sustainable markets for biofortified crops will require public and private investments and partnerships to accelerate further product development and wider reach of biofortified seeds to farming communities. Enabling agriculture policies for promoting Agri-Nutrition linkages will help in sustainable production and demand creation. Agri-Food partnerships have the potential to create greater efficiencies across the value chain for biofortified crops.
Biofortification, a novel agriculture technology, has the potential to spur the next nutritious revolution towards Kuposhan Mukt Bharat.