2015: A Productive Year for Biofortified Crops

Biofortified crops enjoyed a very productive 2015. At the close of the year, nearly 3 million farming households in target countries in Africa and Asia were growing and eating these nutritious staple food crops. Read more about how farmers and their families are reaping the benefits.

 

Stakeholders Meet to Appraise Brazil’s Biofortification Program

Foto 2_Crédito para Tarcila Viana

Photo credit: Tarcila Viana

Stakeholders in Brazil’s biofortification program met in Rio de Janeiro last week to take stock of progress in promoting the development, adoption, and consumption of biofortified crops. The 5th National Biofortification Meeting took place October 13-15 in Rio de Janeiro, bringing together, among others, experts from HarvestPlus, CIAT, ICRISAT, the US Department of Agriculture, the International Union of Food Science and Technology, Cornell University, and Nestlé.

Brazil remains a global leader in national ownership of biofortification, and has released several biofortified crops to farmers, including vitamin A sweet potato, cassava and maize, iron and zinc cowpeas, and iron beans. Biofortified foods have also been included as part of school meals in some states.

HarvestPlus applauded achievements in creating demand for biofortified crops and expanding the reach of these nutritious crops in the northeast region of Brazil, but also identified areas for improvement, such as increasing the rate of voluntary purchases of seed and creating public and social policies on biofortification.

Yery Mendoza, a researcher from Nestlé, expressed confidence in the sustainability of biofortification given the demand potential resulting from increasing pouplation growth, predicting that "it is only a matter of time before biofortified foods reach commercial scale production.” Mendoza noted that Nestlé, and the private sector in general, would play crucial roles in bringing nutritious foods to the table, and creating secure supply chains.

The meeting was organized by the BioFORT Network, which leads the Brazilian biofortification program under the national Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa. Marilia Nutti, who heads the BioFORT Network in addition to HarvestPlus’ Latin America and Caribbean program, underscored the importance of learning from other countries’ successes and expriences. She cited Rwanda, where HarvestPlus and partners have reached more than half a million farming households with iron beans.

The Time is Right for Biofortification in India – FAO Rep

On the occasion of World Food Day we are pleased to have Mr. Peter Kenmore, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in India, discuss the benefits of biofortified crops to India. Kenmore considers dissemination of biofortified crops an effective strategy in the task of improving nutrition. He thinks now is the time for India to adopt effective strategies like biofortification that will ensure food and nutrition security along with other favorable conditions like price stability and family farming. In this interview, Kenmore discusses “hidden hunger” and the importance of nutritious diet in the first 1,000 days of a child's life. An agriculturist himself, Kenmore applauds the role of HarvestPlus and its partners who believe in combating malnutrition by developing nutritious varieties of staple food crops using conventional breeding methods.

He refers to a recently published nutrition study, which has shown that pearl millet bred to be richer in iron was able to reverse iron deficiency in school-aged children in India within six months. Watch his short interview below.

Dietary Diversity and Biofortification: Closer Than You Think

Women and biodiversitySome 2 billion people suffer from hidden hunger caused by infections and diets lacking in essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc. This is particularly the case in the developing world, where diets mainly consist of starchy staples and not enough nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses, and animal source foods.

But what if those food staples that people eat regularly were made to work toward better nutrition? And how does that fit with the need for dietary diversification? This first in a new series of policy briefs explains the link between biofortification and dietary diversity.

Updated Map Shows Biofortification’s Growing Global Reach

Crops Map InforgraphicNearly 50 countries are now growing or testing biofortified crops, demonstrating the global momentum to promote these nutritious staple crops to more farmers and consumers. At the Second Global Conference on Biofortification (GCOBII) last year, participants committed to scaling up biofortified crops. Since then, five more countries have released nutritious crops, and an additional eight countries are evaluating them prior to release to farmers. Read more

 

 

Strengthening Links Between Nutrition, Health Outcomes, and Agricultural Research

12571The June issue of the journal Food Security featured a special section: Strengthening the links between nutrition and health outcomes and agricultural research. This special section looks beyond production and consumption within farming households; it explores how to increase access to, and impact of, nutritious, safe and sustainably-produced food through markets, food environments, and enabling policy. It includes a synthesis paper on consumer acceptance of biofortified crops in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Co-authored by HarvestPlus Head of Impact Research Ekin Birol, “…the studies summarized here revealed that biofortified foods are liked by target consumers, in some cases even in the absence of information about their nutritional benefits, though information and awareness campaigns often have an important role to play.” This synthesis and all the other papers in the special section of the Food Security journal are freely accessible through the Secure Nutrition platform.

Going Global: Annual Report 2014

Cover_thumbnailOur 2014 annual report reflects the growing reach of biofortified nutritious staple food crops, now being grown by farmers in dozens of countries. From Nollywood movies and pop songs extolling the benefits that these foods can provide to new scientific evidence to back it all up, biofortification is truly going global.  Read the report in magazine format or download a copy.

And this year, we’ve also launched a compendium of 2014 research publications by HarvestPlus and its global network of collaborators. You can download this here.

If you would like to receive a print copy of either or both reports, please email HarvestPlus@cgiar.org.

Deadline Extended! WHO Calls for Biofortification Researchers

WHO2The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for international public health, has announced a special consultation on biofortified crops to be held on April 5-8, 2016 in New York City. Co-convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Sackler Institute of Nutrition Science, the gathering will focus on “staple crops biofortified with increased micronutrient content for improving vitamin and mineral status in populations.” WHO expects that the results of the consultation will inform its work to develop global guidelines on fortification of staple foods with vitamins and minerals as a public health strategy.

In preparation for the event, WHO has issued a call for authors who are interested in preparing review papers related to various aspects of biofortified staple crops, such as breeding, consumption, adoption, and bioavailability, among others. Researchers working independently or as teams can submit their letters of interest by sending an email to WHO at nutrition@who.int no later than July 31, 2015. WHO will provide financial support for selected authors following its standard procedures for completing this work. Commissioned authors will be expected to present their work at the consultation in New York, and peer-reviewed papers will be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science.

More information on the call for authors is available here.

 

 

 

 

Global Panel Launches New Policy Brief on Biofortification

The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition has just released a new policy brief focused on biofortification. Titled Biofortification: An Agricultural Investment for Nutrition, the brief urges policymakers to adopt biofortification as a “nutrient-sensitive national agricultural research and investment strategy.”

It includes technical evidence on the nutritional benefits of biofortified crops, particularly for children and women from rural populations in low and middle-income countries where micronutrient deficiencies (or ‘hidden hunger’) are prevalent. It also highlights some of the biofortified crops that have been released to date and are being grown by farmers in 27 developing countries. Such crops include vitamin A orange sweet potato, cassava, and maize, zinc rice and wheat, and iron beans and pearl millet.

Moreover, the brief showcases Nigeria as a successful example of a developing country whose government has embraced biofortification among strategies to improve nutrition and food security. Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Dr. Akinwumi Adesina is a strong advocate of expanding access to biofortified crops. “The challenge is no longer the science for biofortification—we know it works; our challenge as policymakers is to scale up biofortified crops to reach millions of households through institutional, regulatory and financial policy,” he stated at a major conference last year.

The Global Panel’s policy brief encourages policymakers to adopt biofortification as an important element among a suite of complementary strategies to reduce micronutrient deficiencies. It concludes with a list of recommendations for scaling up biofortification, a theme that the Panel previously addressed during the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.

The policy brief was launched at an event hosted by the United Kingdom’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development.

Mapping for Investments in Biofortification: HarvestPlus Launches Interactive New Tool

BPI_mainA new, interactive online tool is now available to guide stakeholders in deciding where, and in which biofortified crops, to invest. The Biofortification Priority Index (BPI), which focuses on three micronutrients—iron, vitamin A, and zinc—allows users to search and sort through three easy-to-use drop down menus, with results displayed on a color-coded map according to crop, region, and priority for investment.

The BPI will be useful to stakeholders in making investment decisions on biofortification that will have the highest pay off in reducing micronutrient deficiencies. It comes at a time when biofortification is attracting increased recognition as a viable strategy to improve the nutritional status of populations dependent on staple food crops for sustenance. Many national nutrition and agricultural policies now integrate biofortification, while several countries and organizations have committed to supporting the scaling up and delivery of biofortified crops following the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in 2014.

More detailed explanations about the data and methodology behind the BPI are available in the full HarvestPlus Working Paper on which the tool is based.