An IRRI Seminar
By Howarth Bouis
1:15-2:15 P.M., Thursday, 18 July 2013
Havener Auditorium, Chandler Hall, IRRI
Biofortification, the process of breeding nutrients into food crops, provides a sustainable and cost-effective strategy for delivering micronutrients to rural populations in developing countries. Several conventionally bred varieties have been released while other varieties are in the breeding pipeline. The results of efficacy and effectiveness studies, as well as recent successes in delivery, provide evidence that biofortification is a promising strategy for combating hidden hunger.
This presentation will summarize progress to date and identify challenges faced in delivering and scaling up biofortified crops in target countries. The challenges on ensuring the sustainability of biofortification after Phase 3 (2014-18) of HarvestPlus will be discussed.
For biofortification to be successful, three broad ques¬tions must be answered:
1. Can breeding increase micronutrient density in high-yielding food staples to target levels that will have a measurable and significant impact on nutritional status?
The following conventionally bred biofortified varieties have met agronomic requirements and have been released since 2011:
- High-provitamin A cassava, Nigeria and DR Congo (2011)
- High-provitamin A maize, Zambia (2012)
- High-iron beans, Rwanda and DR Congo (2012)
- High-iron pearl millet, India (2012)
- High-zinc rice, Bangladesh (expected 2013)
- High-zinc wheat, India (expected 2013)
Results of feeding trials have been published establishing the efficacy of high-provitamin A sweet potato. Positive results (unpublished) for high-iron beans and high-iron pearl millet have been presented at conferences. Several efficacy trials are in process. By the end of 2014, it is expected that 11 additional efficacy studies will have been published for beans, pearl millet, cassava, maize, and wheat.
Bioavailability studies for cassava, maize, and rice have shown provitamin A to be much more bioavailable in staple foods than in fruits and vegetables.
3. Will farmers grow the biofortified varieties and will consumers buy and eat them in sufficient quantities?
High-provitamin A orange sweet potato has been promoted among African farmers since 2007. Pilot delivery programs in Mozambique and Uganda have shown that high percentages of target farm households will adopt and consume the orange sweet potato varieties, improving levels of the serum retinol in children.