HarvestPlus Director Speaks on the Power of Biofortification at SAIS

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Dr. Howarth Bouis

HarvestPlus Director Howarth Bouis gave a talk on “The Power of Biofortification” at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC on March 3. This event was part of the Global Issues in Agriculture Speaker series organized by SAIS, a top graduate school that focuses on international affairs, economics, diplomacy, and policy research and education.

THEME: Better Crops, Better Nutrition: the Power of Biofortification
DATE: March 3, 2015
TIME: 4:30PM – 6:00PM
VENUE: Rome Auditorium

A link to the video of the presentation can be found here. 

Biofortification: The Five Big Challenges

Howarth Bouis, HarvestPlus Director

Howarth Bouis, HarvestPlus Director

Guest blog by Tiffany Imes Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center.

In today's plenary, Howarth Bouis, HarvestPlus Director presented progress made in biofortification, as well as the challenges.

He explained the comparative advantages of biofortification and why this technology that targets the rural poor could be a cost-effective approach to improving nutrition. Bouis also shared the progress that has been made in using crop breeding to improve nutrition. He cited advances in the biofortification of staple crops such as cassava and the use of biofortified foods for school feeding programs in Brazil. He also mentioned advances made in transgenic breeding.

According to Bouis advances in breeding techniques and discoveries of key genes has produced crops with nutrient levels that are high enough to improve human nutrition. Furthermore, Bouis said that “evidence shows that there is no trade-off between high nutrient content and high crop yield.” He highlighted recent findings on the impressive retention of provitamin A (beta-carotene) in maize, which is the most important staple food in much of Africa. Encouraging findings are also emerging from a recent project that introduced orange sweet potato to 24,000 households in Uganda and Mozambique.

Dr. Bouis also shared the constraints he has encountered as biofortification has progressed over the years. He ended his talk by noting the following key challenges faced:

1. Identifying optimal delivery strategies for getting biofortified foods to people
2. Ensuring and measuring the public health impact of biofortification
3. Developing a better understanding of how foods impact human nutrition
4. Getting the agricultural sector to prioritize improving nutrition
5. Getting the nutrition community to prioritize agriculture in order to improve nutrition

The audience particapted in a show of hands to assess which of these they saw as the main priorities. Bouis noted that on the last day of the sympsoium, we would revisit these challenges to see if perceptions had changed over the course of the conference as the latest findings were presented.

See the full presentation on Slideshare.

Garvelink Opens Biofortification Conference

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Ambassador William J. Garvelink

Ambassador William J. Garvelink
U.S. Government Deputy Coordinator for Development, Feed the Future: Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative

In his opening keynote to the conference at the First Global Conference on Biofortification, Ambassador William J. Garvelink observed that there’s been a significant decline in funding for agriculture over the past decades. However, the tide has changed. The US Government has committed 3.5 billion over three years on agricultural led development through Feed the Future (FTF). With its focus on smallholder farmers (most of whom are women), women (and, thus, children and nutrition), and increasing agricultural productivity, among other things, FTF is different from past efforts.

Garvelink said that “strong mechanisms to hold both ourselves and our partners accountable for achieving sustainable outcomes in food security,” were being put in place. Food security means better access to better quality food. “We are witnessing a revolution in our approach to nutrition,” he said. New foods such as orange sweet potato with vitamin A, and iron-rich beans for Africa were examples of how agricultural tools could improve global health.

“If there is one thing I want you to remember from my speech today it is this: the momentum to link agriculture, research and nutrition across programs is greater than ever before. We must capitalize on this energy. The time has come for us to channel the powers of modern agricultural technology to reduce the single largest public health problem in the world: malnutrition.”

See Ambassador Garvelink’s full remarks as prepared for delivery.