Across the globe people are facing hunger everyday, suffering from micronutrient deficiencies leading to sickness and death. The cause of this issue is usually intertwined with low economic status and the inability to obtain a balanced diet full of the necessary vitamins and minerals needed by the human body. Biofortification offers a cost effective, sustainable and attainable way for these people to rise out of starvation. Micronutrients are an essential part of the human diet. They are defined as vitamins and minerals necessary for growth and physical wellness in very small yet imperative amounts (Micronutrients.).
They allow for the production of developmental substances needed for growth such as hormones. Important systems such as the cardiovascular, circulatory and immune system depend on the intake of micronutrients to remain functioning and healthy (Merz, Beverly). Some micronutrients are manufactured by your body, however there are almost thirty different vitamins and minerals considered to be essential nutrients that your body can not produce (Merz, Beverly). These are known as essential micronutrients because they must be included in a personr’s diet. Failure to consume a well balanced diet containing all of these micronutrients results in what is known as micronutrient deficiency. Micronutrient deficiency, or hidden hunger as it is commonly referred to, can lead to tremendous health issues and even death. Countless amounts of ailments can be attributed to the lack of a single micronutrient (Merz, Beverly).
One of the earliest micronutrient deficiencies observed was in British sailors who went months for a time without fruits or vegetables. Their lack of vitamin C, an essential micronutrient, lead to what was called scurvy (Merz, Beverly). Micronutrient deficiencies are existent in high income countries, but are most prevalent in poverty ridden countries (Biesalski, Hans). Because the required amount of micronutrients is so minuscule, it is hard to detect early signs of inadequacy. This makes hidden hunger dangerous because it can not be treated until diseases are already in development (Biesalski, Hans). Iron, vitamin D, iodine and folate deficiency are just a few of the worldwide issues (Biesalski, Hans). Failure to consume all the essential micronutrients can lead to problems with growth, problems with mental development, and high risk of infection.
Just as humans need these essential vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, plants will thrive when presented with adequate nutrient sources as well. Biofortification works to improve the nutritional integrity of plants during the growing process instead of individually injecting nutrients into food products (Singh, Ummed). This is done through both plants breeding and genetic modification. Plants are altered so that they can produce more nutrients for themselves, making them richer in micronutrients (Singh, Ummed). Because these crops are altered during growth, the seeds they produce are able to pass down the fortification from generation to generation. This means that only a one time cost is necessary for a lifetime of nutrient rich crops. This process highly enhances food quality, packing food with nutrients from the start.
Biofortification is thought to be the best solution to world hunger for many reasons. Since it only requires a one time investment, it is highly cost effective. The seeds produced from the altered plants carry the influenced genetic information, meaning no additional efforts are needed to keep the crops rich in nutrients. The nutritional quality of staple crops that are most widely consumed by poverty ridden areas such as wheat and corn can be increased to give the consumer a balanced diet from food they already rely on.
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