Biofortification Strategies for Reducing Malnutrition through Production of Nutrient Dense Food
Authors: DEBARATI DATTA1* and SOURAV GHOSH2
1 PhD Research Scholar, Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, India
2 PhD Research Scholar, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, New Delhi, India



Malnutrition remains a big issue in the progress of India even in present times. The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for number of children suffering from malnutrition. Every 3.6 secs, a child dies due to hunger. According to WHO (2002), 840 million people do not get enough food. More than 3 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiency. Among the top ten leading causes of illness and disease in low income countries, Zn, Fe and Vit A play a major role. Zn deficiency is the major reason for accelerated aging,weight loss, dermatitis, delayed wound healing, retarded mental growth, white spot on nails in humans. Highest anaemic population has been recorded in South East Asia and country suffering the most is India. 1.6 billion people suffer from anaemia which contributes to about 25% of the population. Severity of Vit A deficiency is highest in India, Nepal, Bhutan. 5.2 million preschool and 9.8 million pregnant women suffer from this.The major illness due to this is night blindness, impaired vision, epithelial tissue integrity.
Biofortification is the process of deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrient and vitamins in food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health. It is mainly done through genetic engineering, breeding and agronomic approach. Since cereals are the staple food in most developing low income countries, we can go for biofortification and thus increase the quality, nutritional status as well as quantity.

Major role:
  • To overcome the malnutritions in human beings.
  • To increase nutritional quality in daily diets.
  • To improve crop quality and increase variability in germplasm.


Biofortification approaches

A. Genetic Engineering
In the year 2000, Prof. Ingo Potrykus and Dr.Peter Beyer developed the Golden Rice and it was a solution to Vit A deficiency. By Genetic Engineering,it is possible to redirect a biosynthetic pathway of carotenoids by genetic engineering of multiple gene encoding key enzymes psy, lyc, crt1which were introduced by Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

B. Breeding Approach
This is widely accepted, cost effective, easily affordable, sustainable approach. After one time investment is made to develop seeds that fortify themselves, recurrent costs are low, germplasm may be shared internationally.
According to Cakmak (2008),
  • It is a long term process requiring huge resources.
  • Uncertain whether it will work effectively.
  • Increased risk of allergenicity in humans.
  • Loss of wild types.

C. Agronomic Biofortification
When cultivars or GM crops with grains denser in Fe and Zn are developed by genetic biofortification , adequate fertilization will be necessary. Agronomic biofortification is the easiest and fastest way for biofortification of cereal grains with Fe, Zn or other micronutrients. The various strategies are-
  • Root dipping, seed priming, inclusion of dual purpose legume
  • Foliar and soil application of nutrient for maximum translocation of photosynthate ( There is an increase of 5-8 mg/kg Zn in grain by soil+foliar application of 1% Zn enriched NPK fertilizer)
  • Intercropping and Crop diversification
  • Use of fortified and customized fertilizers
  • Hydroponics

Pooniya et al., 2012 reported that increase in biological yield was due to 2%Zn enriched urea as ZnSO4. Zeidan et al., 2010 indicated that Zinc application increased grain protein. Phattarakul et al., 2012 suggested that promoting Zn content in vegetative tissues by foliar Zn application results in higher translocation to seeds. The better performance of ZnSO47H2O over ZnO is due to its water solubility. Water solubility of Zn sources is considered an important criterion for Zn availability (Slaton et al., 2005).
Thus, biofortification is the only way to reach the poorest of the poor rural masses, who don't have enough money to buy mineral supplements nor can afford to improve the components of their diet by incorporating animal products. Thus, genetic and agronomic approaches are complementary to each other and should progress in tandem.



To meet malnutrition,

We should do business more with Plant and Soil Doctors for its preservation/protection than with Human Doctors, for its curing > as health comes from the farm, not from pharmacy

References:

1.Cakmak . 2008. Enrichment of cereal grains with zinc: Agronomic or genetic biofortification? Plant and Soil 302, 1-17.

2.Phattarakul. N., Rerkasem. B. and Li. L.J. 2012. Biofortification of rice grain with zinc through zinc fertilization in different countries. Plant Soil, 361, 131-141.

3. Pooniya. V., Shivay. Y.S. and Rana, W. 2012. Enhancing soil nutrient dynamics and productivity of through residue incorporation and zinc fertilization in Basmati rice. Europ. J. Agronomy , 41 (2012) 28- 37.

4.Slaton, N. A., Normal, R. J. and Wilson, C. E. 2005 . Effect of zinc source and application time on zinc uptake and grain yield of flood-irrigated rice. Agronomy Journal 97: 272 -278.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am a PhD Research scholar in Agronomy, Agriculture at GBPUAT, Pantnagar