Submitted to: Journal of Experimental Botany
Publication Type: Review article
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/11/2003
Publication Date: 2/1/2004
Citation: WELCH, R.M., GRAHAM, R.D. BREEDING FOR MICRONUTRIENTS IN STAPLE FOOD CROPS FROM A HUMAN NUTRITION PERSPECTIVE. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY. 2004. V. 55(396). P. 353-364. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Globally, over 3 billion people are micronutrient malnourished. Most of those afflicted are dependent on staple crops for their sustenance. Importantly, these crops can be enriched (i.e., 'biofortified') with micronutrients using plant breeding and/or transgenic strategies. Available research has demonstrated that micronutrient enrichment traits are available within the genomes of staple crops that could allow for substantial increases in micronutrients in their edible parts without negatively impacting crop productivity. Additionally, `proof of concept' studies have been published using transgenic approaches to biofortify staple crops (e.g., high b-carotene `golden rice' grain, high ferritin-Fe rice grain, etc.). Furthermore, micronutrient enrichment of seeds can increase crop yields when sowed to micronutrient-poor soils assuring their adoption by farmers. Bioavailability issues must be addressed when employing plant breeding or transgenic approaches as tools to reduce micronutrient malnutrition. Reducing antinutrient substances (e.g., phytate, polyphenolics, etc) that inhibit micronutrient bioavailability, or increasing substances (e.g., ascorbic acid, S-containing amino acids, etc.) that promote micronutrient bioavailability are both option that could be pursued, but these approaches should be used with caution. The world's agricultural community should adopt plant breeding and other genetic technologies to improve human health, and the world's nutrition and health communities should support these efforts. Sustainable solutions to this enormous global problem of `hidden hunger' will not come without employing agricultural approaches.