An estimated 2 billion people globally are affected by micronutrient deficiencies, while around one third of the global population is at risk of at least one micronutrient deficiency. Micronutrient deficiencies, also known as hidden hunger, can be linked to significant disease burden and economic loss. Food-based approaches to tackling micronutrient deficiencies include improving the micronutrient content of widely consumed foods through large-scale food fortification or biofortification, both of which have been proven to be efficacious, cost-effective, and scalable in increasing micronutrient intakes and improving associated biological outcomes.
Biofortification is the process of increasing nutritional value of food crops by increasing the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop through either conventional plant breeding, agronomic practices or biotechnology. Examples of these vitamins and minerals that can be increased through biofortification include provitamin A Carotenoids, zinc and iron.
Over the last three years, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Harvest Plus (IFPRI-CGIAR) implemented a global programme on Commercialisation of Biofortified Crops. In India, the programme was implemented in several states focusing on Zinc Wheat and Iron Pearl Millet. Earlier, the Prime Minister of India announced that, by 2024, rice provided to the poor under any government scheme PDS, mid-day-meal, Anganwadi, will be fortified. Leveraging science to attack the complex challenge of malnutrition, particularly for low-income and vulnerable sections of society, who cannot afford balanced diversified diets, can be a good intervention.
As a result of the Prime Minister of India’s efforts, the millet and nutrient-rich crop revolution is underway in the country and around the world. It is in this context the Global Summit for Strengthening Food Systems for Nutrient-Rich Crops is being organised in New Delhi on the 19th of July 2023. The summit will focus on the need for a food systems approach to mitigate rising malnutrition and nutrition insecurity and approaches towards improving our nutrition indicators by using nutrient-rich crops, with perspectives from government and industry.