Combating malnutrition with biofortification

Maria Isabel Andrade, AGRA Board Member and recipient of the World Food Prize 2016, stressed the importance of plant breeding, especially when it came to combating malnutrition – a phenomenon affecting two billion people world-wide. Forty-four per cent of children in Africa suffered from micronutrient deficiencies which prevented them from reaching their full potential, Andrade explained. One way to address this was biofortification, enriching crops with specific nutrients via plant breeding. For example, 22 varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potato were developed between 2011 and 2016 that were not only fortified with beta carotene, a vitamin A precursor, but were above all drought-tolerant. A mere 100 grams of these sweet potatoes would be enough to cover an individual’s vitamin A requirements for five days. Today, 4.5 million households in 14 African countries are receiving biofortified varieties. However, plant breeding was a tedious venture, which was why AGRA had developed an accelerated breeding scheme in co-operation with a German breeding company.