Open Access Biotechnology, biofortification, and global health

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Deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin A afflict over three billion people (more than 50% of the world's population), most of them women, infants, and children in resource-poor families in the developing world. This global crisis in nutritional health is the result of dysfunctional food systems that do not consistently supply enough of these essential nutrients to meet the nutritional requirements of high-risk groups. Deficiencies of micronutrients result in increased morbidity and mortality rates, lost worker productivity, stagnated national development, permanent impairment of cognitive development in infants and children, and large economic costs and suffering to those societies affected. Because agricultural systems are the primary source of all micronutrients for all people, changes in agricultural policies and systems must be made that will ensure consistent and adequate supplies of all essential nutrients to all people. Additionally, the nutrition and health sectors must turn to agricultural interventions as a primary tool in their efforts to eliminate malnutrition from the world if they want to ensure sustainability. Biotechnological advances show great promise for improving the output of bioavailable micronutrients from agricultural systems that feed the poor. This paper reviews some of these opportunities and discusses the questions and concerns that should be raised when these technologies are used to improve the micronutrient status of vast numbers of people who are dependent on staple food crops for their sustenance. Further, important issues surrounding micronutrient bioavailability and plant food factors that affect it are discussed.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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