Malnutrition and undernourishment are the serious health issues in our country. Hidden hunger, the less
known younger brother of lack of calories, stems from mineral and nutritional deficiencies often caused by
unbalanced diet. Deficiency of protein, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals leads to poor health
and increased susceptibility to various diseases and affects the socio-economic structure of the country.
Approximately two billion people across the world are suffering from these deficiencies, which can lead to
blindness, cognitive impairments, stunting growth and even death. In fact hidden hunger accounts for 50%
of the total mortality in developing countries. In India about 58% of the pregnant women are anaemic and
thus it is estimated that anaemia is the underlying cause of 20-40 % of cases of maternal deaths.
According to a study, in Haryana about 56.1 % women and 72.3 % children are anaemic.
Bio-fortification of crop varieties is considered as one of the most sustainable and cost effective approach
to increase levels of micro nutrients and to combat such problems. Bio-fortification is essentially
hybridizing a high yielding crop variety with different crop varieties that may not be high yielding but
nutrient dense with higher levels of iron, zinc or pro-vitamin A. Bio-fortification is more cost effective
and long term solution to the malnutrition. Plant breeders have developed many tolerant crop varieties to
environmental stresses such as flooding, drought and heat-all to cope with climate change. All these climate
smart varieties should be nutrition smart as well i.e. bio-fortified. There is a need to work on combining
nutritional traits with climate smart traits. Various studies have shown better cognitive abilities in
children feeding with high iron pearl millet, better work performance of women with intake of high iron
beans and lower morbidity levels in women and children feeding on high zinc wheat. Our vision is to reach
the maximum population with bio-fortified crops as early as possible. If we look into the economic aspect
of the bio-fortification, it is benefit derived from the health outcome- from having more minerals and
vitamins in our diet.
Bio-fortification provides essentially free health benefits to the farmers and consumers, because the prices of bio-fortified crops are same as that of non bio-fortified ones. Recently Hon'ble Prime Minister dedicated 17 bio-fortified varieties of 8 crops (Rice, Maize, Wheat, Mustard, Peanuts etc.) to the nation on the occasion of 75th Anniversary of FAO. The bio-fortified varieties are 1.5 to 3.0 times more nutritious than the traditional varieties. These bio-fortified varieties of crops will turn the normal Indian Thali into more nutritious one. Government of India has launched ambitious Poshan Abhiyan targeting more than 100 million people that aim to overcome the problems like slow physical development, malnutrition, anaemia and low birth weight. There is a need to make this aspect a mass campaign by involving research institution, extension agencies, farmers, seed suppliers, entrepreneurs and customers to provide a long term solution to the malnutrition in our country.
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