Nourishing the Future: Harnessing Bio-Fortification for Nutritional Security

Eashani Chettri

Food security is a concern that has been achieved and now, we move on to the next step- nutritional security. How can we enhance nutritional security, particularly in a world where food quality has greatly decreased owing to the amount of fertilizers and pesticides being used for production? We grow food in soil stripped of nutrition – so it is barely a surprise that the food that is being cultivated also lacks nutrition. How do we tackle this issue?

This is where bio-fortification comes in. But, what exactly is bio-fortification? It has been defined as the process of “boosting a food crop’s micronutrient content through selective breeding, genetic engineering, or the application of enriched fertilizers.”

Enhancing the nutrient value of crops by bio-fortification entails raising their nutrient content or bioavailability. This strategy can help populations’ nutritional health, especially in places where access to a variety of nutrient-dense foods is restricted.  Bio-fortification nutritional aims can include higher mineral content, better vitamin content, and higher quantities of important amino acids. Breeding, agronomy, and biotechnology can all be used to accomplish biofortification.

Why Has it Become a Concern?

Nutritional deficiency manifests as ‘hidden hunger’ strikes. This is particularly a concern in children whose bodies have vital developmental activities taking place.  Recently, UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank released a report titled, “Levels and Trends in Child Malnutrition: Joint Malnutrition Estimates”- which stated that 18.7% of Indian children have been affected by wasting.

Now, What is Being Wasted?

A youngster who is too thin for his or her height due to recent rapid weight loss or a failure to acquire weight is said to be wasting. Although there are treatments available, a youngster who is moderately or severely wasted has a higher risk of dying.

This is where hidden hunger comes in the picture. A child might be provided enough food to eat, but if the food is severely lacking in vital micronutrients- the developmental processes of the child will still not take place.

In order to integrate agriculture, nutrition, and bio-fortification, the Indian government has already made a significant move. The bio-fortification of basic crops has received the strong support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a viable and affordable method of reducing malnutrition.

In the past, the government of Bihar, the third most populous state in India and the one with the highest rate of stunting, pledged to quickly scale up zinc wheat seed production in order to serve millions of disadvantaged agricultural families (zinc deficiency is a key cause of stunting). In order to promote these kinds, the Bihar government also set up a “Nutritional Village” where 475 households will grow bio fortified crops.

How Does it Affect Farmers?

Well, the purchase of bio-fortified seeds would be a one-time investment. Farmers can then use the same seeds in the next season and so on. This puts the farmer at an advantage once the awareness regarding bio-fortified food grains catches the buzz. At present an efficient marketing system is required in order to create awareness about biofortification so that Indian consumers can be empowered to make better choices.

This article has been republished from Krishi Jagran

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