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World Food Prize to be awarded to 4 people for work on biofortification
Saturday, 02 July, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
The World Food Prize (WFP) that recognises outstanding work by individuals towards enhancing quality, quantity or availability of food in the world, will be awarded this year to four individuals for their work on biofortification. Drs Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low and Howarth Bouis were announced as the 2016 World Food Prize laureates by the US state department in Washington on June 28, 2016.

As per a press release, the work on Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) by Drs Andrade, Mwanga and Low; of the International Potato Center has been recognised as the ‘single most successful example of biofortification.’

Dr Bouis, founder, Harvest Plus, at International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), was named for pioneering ‘the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortification as a global plant breeding strategy.’ The four will share the prize of $250,000 that will be awarded at a ceremony in Iowa, in October this year. The WFP estimates that over 10 million persons are now positively impacted by biofortified crops, with a potential of several hundred million more in the coming decades thanks to the efforts of these four laureates.

M S Swaminathan, founder, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), who is the chairman of the selection committee for WFP, said, “Biofortification is an economic and effective mechanism against malnutrition that is prevalent in a majority of the population in the world and especially in India. MSSRF would be glad to facilitate a garden of biofortified plants so that this material may be made available for the community. I hope this award will generate greater interest in biofortification.”

Biofortification is a means of deliberately increasing the nutrient quality of crops during growth for the purpose of enhancing the nutrition and health of the population it serves. This is particularly important for those who have micro-nutrient deficiencies (Vitamin A, iron and zinc). These are estimated to affect over half the population in the world, especially in India, which has the largest number of stunted children in the world.

The process addresses all the three major dimensions of hunger – calorific, protein and vitamin / mineral deficiencies. It can be done through natural selection, conventional breeding or biotechnology approaches. Through biofortification, communities can receive additional nutrients through their regular intake of staple food and be protected from preventable conditions such as anaemia, stunting and infectious diseases.

MSSRF has been taking efforts towards biofortification of rice with enhanced iron and zinc since 2008, working with a total of 160 landraces and varieties of rice from Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The scientists have been engaged in identifying high zinc and iron content rice and introducing those traits into high yielding varieties through conventional plant breeding. Since rice is a major staple food of over half the world’s population, this initiative holds promise to address malnutrition.
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