According to United Nations (UN) projections, the world's population will grow from 6.1 billion in 2000 to 8 billion in 2025 and 9.4 billion in 2050. Most (93) of the increase will take place in developing countries. The rapid population growth in developing countries creates major
challenges for governments regarding food and nutrition security. According to current World Health Organization estimates, more than 3 billion people worldwide, especially in developing countries, are malnourished in essential nutrients. Malnutrition imposes severe costs on a country's population
due to impaired physical and cognitive abilities and reduced ability to work. Little progress has been made in improving malnutrition over the past few decades. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN would like to see more nutrient-rich foods introduced into these countries, because
supplements are expensive and difficult to distribute widely. Biofortification of staple crops through modern biotechnology can potentially help in alleviating malnutrition in developing countries. Several genetically modified crops, including rice, potatoes, oilseeds, and cassava, with elevated
levels of essential nutrients (such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, protein and essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids); reduced levels of antinutritional factors (such as cyanogens, phytates, and glycoalkaloid); and increased levels of factors that influence bioavailability and utilization
of essential nutrients (such as cysteine residues) are advancing through field trial stage and regulatory processes towards commercialization. The ready availability and consumption of the biofortified crops would have a significant impact in reducing malnutrition and the risk of chronic disease
in developing countries.
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Document Type: Research Article
Nutrition Research Division, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, Government of Canada, 251 Sir Frederick Banting Dwy, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A 0L2.
National Commission on Biotechnology, Government of Pakistan and COMSTECH Secretariat, 3 Constitution Ave, G-5/2, Islamabad-4400, Pakistan.
Publication date: September 1, 2007
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