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Feature: Crop biofortification, key to achieving Millennium Development Goals

By Jenny A. Panopio

Davao City (26 January) -- Micronutrients are considered as "magic wands" as they are essential to growth, health, and wellness of all, especially the children and women. However, micronutrients deficiency is a global problem, contributing to world's widespread malnutrition and high rate of children and women's mortality.

UNICEF and WHO World Food Programme estimate that more than 2 billion people in the world are deficient in Vitamin A, Iodine, Iron or Zinc. And most these people are deficient to more than one of these micronutrients.

According to Dr. Corazon Barba, nutritionist from the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), "Six out of the eight objectives in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) are related to micronutrient deficiency. And together with conventional interventions, such as supplementation and industrial fortification, biofortification of crops with essential micronutrients could greatly contribute in the attainment of these MDGs".

Dr. Barba believes on the potentials of crop biofortification as one of the long term solutions in combating this widespread and persistent public health problem. Dr. Randy Hautea of ISAAA also trusts that biofortification can help in alleviating global malnutrition.

Crop biofortification is a strategy employed by agricultural research institutions to utilize genetic modification (GM) of crops to enhance levels of essential micronutrient. The potentials and safety issues of biofortified crops to address micronutrient deficiencies was the focus of a symposium held last January 18, 2010 at SEARCA, College, Laguna.

During the symposium, Dr. Gerard Barry, Golden Rice Network Coordinator of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), shared the current biofortification initiatives in rice for micronutrients Vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Of all these efforts, the pro-Vitamin A Golden rice is considered to be in most advanced stage and is expected to reach commercial approval in the Philippines by the Year 2012 or 2013.

Like any other biotech/GM crops, biofortified crops, such as Golden rice, are assessed for food and environmental safety prior to commercial release. The Philippines has set-up policies and regulatory framework that governs such assessment prior to commercial use.

The symposium was organized by the UPLB Institute of Human Nutrition and Food in cooperation with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center and the Biotech Coalition of the Philippines.

For more biotechnology updates in the Philippines, visit or email (SEARCA/PIA) [top]

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