Agricultural research to prioritise nutrition

2 April, 2014 by (comments)

The role of agriculture isn’t just to feed us enough, it is to feed us well.

This week the CGIAR Consortium placed the weight of its agricultural research expertise behind efforts to improve global nutrition and public health as it committed to make breeding for mineral and vitamin traits the norm in conventional food crop development programs.

CIAT nutrition

Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR, announced the pledge to more than 300 high-level stakeholders from government, business and civil society at a three-day consultation on ‘Getting Nutritious Foods to People’ in Kigali, Rwanda (31 March to 2 April).

Malnutrition afflicts one third of the world’s population, many of whom are women and children, leaving two billion people at increased risk of illness, blindness, premature death, reduced productivity, and impaired mental development. 

Studies have shown that by developing new varieties of food crops, rich in vitamin A, zinc or iron, and mainstreaming them into agricultural systems, consumers can reap nutritional benefits.

The conference was organised by HarvestPlus, a global CGIAR research project to improve nutrition and public health. HarvestPlus has succeeded in developing nutritious crops including cassava, maize and orange sweet potato for vitamin A; beans and pearl millet for iron; and rice and wheat for zinc, which are already being grown by more than a million farmers.

Ruben Echeverria, Director General of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), said: “Agricultural solutions are critical to the eradication of hunger, which is why the CGIAR and CIAT are mainstreaming nutrition into our work. For CIAT that means working with HarvestPlus and partners to mainstream the development of iron-rich beans, already grown and eaten by more than 500,000 farmers in Rwanda, and, in Asia and Latin America, vitamin A rich cassava.”

Biofort conf

While there is no single solution to tackling global malnutrition, evidence of the health benefits of biofortified foods is growing and the commitment of the CGIAR to embed health and nutrition at the heart of crop development will help expand the availability of nutritious food to those that really need it. 

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Filed Under: Beans @en, Cassava @en, Crop diversity, Crops website, Gender, Regions
  • Dennis Laughton

    Biofortification can start with a soil analysis to help understand if all the necessary nutrients are available for the plants. If not they need to be part of the fertilizer blend or supplements need to be provided through other means such as iodized salt. A balanced diet is also important, meat & milk not just a starchy food.