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.

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.

HarvestPlus Shares Insights on Biofortification at Clinton Global Initiative

From left to right: Sylvia Magezi (HarvestPlus Country Manager in Uganda), Marcus Samuelsson (celebrity chef and restaurateur)

HarvestPlus joined scores of organizations in New York City last week at the 11th Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative to discuss and share ideas to improve the world. Director Howarth Bouis and HarvestPlus Uganda Country Manager Sylvia Magezi both participated.

As part of the panel for a breakout session titled “Starting the Food Chain with Nutrition” on September 28, Magezi shared insights from HarvestPlus’ work in promoting vitamin A orange sweet potato and iron beans in Uganda. She also highlighted the global momentum of biofortification, noting the growing number of governments and organizations that have adopted biofortified crops. “Strategic partnerships are the way to go to reach the billion people [that HarvestPlus expects to benefit from biofortified crops by 2030],” Magezi emphasized.

The panel was moderated by Kathy Spahn, who leads Hellen Keller International, one of HarvestPlus’ major partners in promoting biofortification. A recording of the full session is available here.

Participants at the CGI got a chance to taste vitamin A corn, which was included in the lunch menu. HarvestPlus is promoting this biofortified maize variety in Zambia, where it was recently launched for commercial sale across the country.

The CGI was established in 2005 by former US President Bill Clinton and is an initiative of the Clinton Foundation. It brings together global leaders to discuss innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Scaling up Biofortification: Better Crops, Better Nutrition Webinar Invite

Photo Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Photo Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Please join us for a live seminar, brought to you by the USAID Bureau For Food Security, on Scaling Up Biofortification: Better Crops, Better Nutrition.  This event will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 online. To register for the webinar, please follow this link. Find out more about this special event here.

Speakers: Dr. Howarth Bouis, Director, HarvestPlus; Dr. Anna-Marie Ball, Manager of Partnerships and Strategic Alliances, HarvestPlus

Biofortification is a cost-effective, innovative approach to growing staple crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Dr. Howarth Bouis will discuss the nutritional benefits of biofortified food crops and their adoption by farmers and consumers in developing countries. Dr. Anna-Marie Ball, who led the USAID-funded orange-fleshed sweet potato program in Uganda and now heads HarvestPlus’ regional advocacy and partnership activities, will provide perspectives from the field, including those of government, the private sector, civil society, farmers, and consumers.

AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Meets with HarvestPlus

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Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture recently received Dr. Howarth Bouis, Director of Harvest Plus and Dr. Anna-Marie Ball the Head of Africa Strategic Alliances, Harvest Plus to discuss scaling up biofortification in Africa at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 27.

Commissioner Tumusiime applauded HarvestPlus’ accomplishments in breeding and producing biofortified food crops and seed varieties, which are contributing to improving nutrition and reducing ‘hidden hunger’ among rural, poor communities in Africa.

She pledged her support to HarvestPlus within her portfolio at the AU and her membership on the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

The Commissioner encouraged HarvestPlus to continue to strongly advocate and promote biofortified crops for poor farmers.

Read the Full Press Release Here.