Human existence requires that agriculture provide at least 50 nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, essential fatty acids) in amounts needed to meet metabolic demands during all seasons. If national food systems do not meet these demands, mortality and morbidity rates increase, worker productivity declines, livelihoods are diminished and societies suffer. Today, many food systems within the developing world cannot meet the nutritional needs of the societies they support mostly due to farming systems that cannot produce enough micronutrients to meet human needs throughout the year. Nutrition transitions are also occurring in many rapidly developing countries that are causing chronic disease (e.g., cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis) rates to increase substantially. These global developments point to the need to explicitly link agricultural technologies to human health. This paper reviews some ways in which agriculture can contribute significantly to reducing micronutrient malnutrition globally. It concludes that it is imperative that close linkages be forged between the agriculture, nutrition and health arenas in order to find sustainable solutions to micronutrient malnutrition with agriculture becoming the primary intervention tool to use in this fight.
Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology (2005) 18 (4) 299-307 [doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2005.03.001]