Micronutrient malnutrition, the so-called hidden hunger, affects more than one-half of the world's population, especially women and preschool children in developing countries. Despite past progress in controlling micronutrient decencies through supplementation and food fortification, new approaches are needed to expand the reach of food-based interventions. Biofortification, a new approach that relies on conventional plant breeding and modern biotechnology to increase the micronutrient density of staple crops, holds great promise for improving the nutritional status and health of poor populations in both rural and urban areas of the developing world. HarvestPlus, a research program implemented with the international research institutes of the CGIAR, targets a multitude of crops that are a regular part of the staple-based diets of the poor and breeds them to be rich in iron, zinc, and provitamin A. This paper emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary research and addresses the key research issues and methodological considerations for success. The major activities to be undertaken are broadly grouped into research related to nutrition research and impact analysis, and research considerations for delivering biofortified crops to end-users effectively. The paper places particular emphasis on the activities of the plant breeding and genetics component of this multidisciplinary program. The authors argue that for biofortification to succeed, product profiles developed by plant breeders must be driven by nutrition research and impact objectives and that nutrition research must understand that the probability of success for biofortified crops increases substantially when product concepts consider farmer adoption and, hence, agronomic superiority.
Crop Science (2007) 47 (Suppl. 3) S88-S105 [doi: 10.2135/cropsci2007.09.0020IPBS]