Biofortification- A way to overcome Malnutrition
Muhammad Umair1, Shakra Jamil2, Rahil Shahzad2, Ghulam Mohyuddin Talha1, Dr. Muhammad Zaffar Iqbal2
- Plant Breeding and Genetics Department, University of Agriculture Faisalabad
- Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute, AARI, Faisalabad
What is Bio-fortification?
The process of increasing the nutritional content of the edible portion of plant foods to levels that consistently exceed the average content observed. Biofortification is different from the other type of fortification because it is based on increasing the nutritious values of the plants rather than adding the minerals artificially in different products.
There is a question why there is need of biofortification. We always listen about the malnutrition. Malnutrition is a condition which is a result of eating the food which whether have deficient amount of the minerals or too much quantity of the minerals causing different types of complications. It may involve calories, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins or minerals. The condition of less nutrition intakes also known as under nutrition or undernourishment. According to World Food Programme (WFP) malnutrition is a condition when a person finds that their body has difficulty doing normal things such as growing and resisting disease. Physical work becomes problematic and even learning abilities can be diminished. For women, pregnancy becomes risky and they cannot be sure of producing nourishing breast milk. Disease and malnutrition are closely linked. Sometimes disease is the result of malnutrition, sometimes it is a contributing cause. In fact, malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease in the world, according to the UN’s Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) (UNICEF, 2011)
Healthy food is the right of every human being. Deficiencies of micro nutrients and vitamins affect a lot to the whole world even in the developing era. Micronutrient deficiency affects more the 3 billion people in the world with almost half of their numbers (1 billion) in the developing worlds. Collectively, over 2 million children are globally died every year only because of the deficiency of micronutrients. According to report about 500 children have been died during birth in last four years due to malnutrition. According to recent research in Pakistan around 51% children are facing the problem of the malnutrition, most of cases belongs to the female children’s (Bhutta, 2017; Arif et al. 2012)
How to cure malnutrition:
The easiest and cost effective method of curing the malnutrition problem is through biofortification. The fortified foods which are available in the market are most expensive and not accessible to everyone. Biofortification is not only affected method for curing malnutrition but also for fatal diseases such as cancer whose medicines are very expensive as well as not easily available in the market. Moreover, It needs only one time investment on research and development, once you have achieved the goal, nutritionally enhanced crops are totally sustainable.(Cochrane et al., 2017)
Where there is a need of biofortification?
There is always question raised in mind why there is a need of biofortification. Here we have discuss about the importance of the different minerals from where the importance of biofortification can easily be accessed. Calcium helps in strengthening of the bones and teeth, helps in signaling and metabolic process. Magnesium helps in reducing the hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Iron helps in increasing the efficiency of red blood cells (increase in oxygen availability) and Selenium helps in fighting against the cancer by decreasing the numbers of cancerous cells and there are many more. If the deficiency of these mineral is occurred it may cause many problems during growth and development as well as diseases.
Biofortification of Brassica
Here we discuss an example with Brassica plants to develop an understanding of the biofortification. We prefer to biofortify those parts which are used commonly in our diet i.e. biofortification of leaves an stem (used as salad and salan) and biofortification of seed (used for extraction of oil e.g. canola oil)
Different methods used for biofortification of the Brassica family are listed below.
- Foliar spray: In this method we directly apply the minerals to the plants in the form of spray. This helps in biofortification of he leaves and stems. This is most commonly used method. This method is used for the biofortification of different minerals such as zinc magnesium, calcium and selenium (anti- cancerous in nature). E.g. spray of ZnSO4.7H2O is applied in the form of foliar spray to the plant.
- Application in the form of fertilizers: In this method mineral rich fertilizer is applied to the soil. The plants up taking the different minerals from the soil by the help of roots to overcome the deficiency.
- By growing in Hydroponic solution: this method is commonly used for the biofortification of iodine. The plants are grown in the rich mineral solution.
- Genetically modified crops: This method is now a days widely used. In this method we insert the gene of interest in desired plant. For example a gene named as GSL-ALK is inserted in the Juncea which converts the Glucosinolates into a product glucosinolate glucoraphanin is known to possess anti-cancer properties.it is accumulated inside the seeds. So, increases the quality of the oil. It is not only accumulated in seed but also in the leaves of the plant. There it acts as the insect repellent.
- Conventional breeding: this method is used to convert the gene from one plant to other desired plant by the help of different breeding methods. E.g. the genes of up taking Ca-Mg gene was transferred from brassica oleracea to rapa and B.napus. Because the gene helps in up taking these minerals is closely related to the chromosome C. This helps in fortification of leaves and stem.
So biofortification not only helps in overcoming the malnutrition but also helps in curing the different fatal diseases in human beings and controlling different types of insect/ pests in cost effective manner. With the little effort we can safe so many lives in human being especially in remote areas of our country. In addition to this we can increase life quality of citizens of urban areas.
Arif, G. M., Nazir, S., Satti, M. N., & Farooq, S. (2012). Child Malnutrition in Pakistan : Trends and Determinants, (July), 0–18.
Bhutta, B. Z. A. (2017). Malnutrition and stunting in Pakistan ―, 1–9.
Cochrane, R., Mn, C., Jp, R., Lm, R., Tablante, C., Mc, U., … Reviews, S. (2017). e Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions ( eLENA ) Biofortification of staple crops, (8), 2016–2017.
UNICEF. (2011). Children in Pakistan: Six month after the Floods, (January).