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Making India Kuposhan Mukta through Biofortified Crop Varieties

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan

There is a substantial percentage of poor population who are unable to afford diverse and nutritious diets and also consume the basic staple food to meet their dietary energy requirements and also to keep them from going hungry. Poor nutrition has a devastating impact like stunting, impaired cognitive ability, blindness, increased risk of disease and premature death. It also leaves the children vulnerable to disease, susceptible to infections and diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera. When adequate nutrition is not available in the early years of childhood they tend to remain mentally and physically stunted for life.

2 billion people globally, suffer from insidious effect of micronutrient malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vitamin A, zinc and iron are among the micronutrients most lacking in the diets of the poor in the developing world. Providing such nutrients through biofortified crops is the only feasible in regions where the government takes initiatives that have strong health and market infrastructure. It does not serve effectively, in rural areas with inadequate and non-existent market infrastructure where the vast majority of malnourished populations live. According to the United Nations, nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India are not meeting their full human potential because of chronic under nutrition or stunting. One of the key fundamental causes leading to poor dietary quality is that current food systems do not provide mineral and vitamins in sufficient quantities at affordable prices for the poor.

There are 17 recently developed biofortified varieties of 8 crops which has 3-fold nutritional value. The 17 recently developed biofortified varieties of 8 crops is been dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister. The National Agricultural Research System under the leadership of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed 53 such varieties during the last five years. ICAR has started Nutri-Sensitive Agricultural Resources and Innovations (NARI) programme for promoting family farming linking agriculture to nutrition. Nutri-smart villages for enhancing nutritional security and location specific nutrition garden models are being developed and promoted by KVKs to ensure access to locally available, healthy and diversified diet with adequate macro and micronutrients.

The rice variety CR Dhan 315 has high zinc;  wheat variety HI 1633 rich in protein, iron and zinc, HD 3298 rich in protein and iron and DBW 303 and DDW 48 rich in protein in wheat; Ladhowal Quality Protein Maize Hybrid 1, 2 and 3 rich in lysine and tryptophan; CFMV1 and 2 of finger millet rich in calcium, iron and zinc; CLMV1 of little Millet rich in iron and zinc; Pusa Mustard 32 with low erucic acid; Girnar 4 and 5 of groundnut with enhanced oleic acid and yam variety Sri Neelima and DA 340 with enhanced zinc, iron and anthocyanin content.

The production of bio-fortified crop varieties will be upscaled and linked with government programmes of mid-day meal, Anganwadi etc. to reduce malnutrition and make India Kuposhan Mukta through naturally enriched food ingredients. This will also usher in higher income of farmers and will open new avenues of entrepreneurship development.

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