The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) on Oct. 14 released a new paper, Food Biofortification—Reaping the Benefits of Science to Overcome Hidden Hunger, which found that substituting biofortified staple foods for non-biofortified foods would allow lower-income households to add extra minerals and vitamins to their diets at no extra cost.
Biofortification is a process of increasing the density of minerals and vitamins in a food crop through conventional plant breeding, transgenic techniques or agronomic practices, CAST explained. Biofortified staple food crops, when consumed regularly substituting one-for-one with non-biofortified staple food crops, will generate measurable improvements in human nutrition and health, the paper concluded.
“The levels of iron, zinc, and provitamin A in released biofortified crops, tested under controlled conditions, are high enough and sufficiently bioavailable to show improvements in mineral and vitamin status, and better functional/health outcomes,” the paper said.
Lower income households typically will spend 60 to 70 percent of total income on food, the paper noted. CAST Task Force Chair Dr. Howarth Bouis, emeritus fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, found that individuals in poorer and richer households eat about the same amount of total food staples, but higher-income households can purchase more mineral- and vitamin-dense vegetables, fruits, pulses and animal products that are more expensive.
Biofortified staple food crops are high-yielding and will sell for the same price as equivalent non-biofortified staple foods, the CAST research noted. Biofortified varieties have been released in 40 countries and adopted by 15 million farm households, the report said.
“Biofortification is one of the most cost-effective and sustainable interventions available in the campaign to reduce mineral and vitamin deficiencies,” CAST stated.
The paper, which is part of the series on The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050, is available for download on CAST’s website.