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date: 25 September 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter is from the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics, and Society edited by Ronald Herring. While less apparent than outright hunger or obesity, the lack of essential vitamins and minerals in people’s diets is one of the leading contributors to the global burden of disease. Current interventions, such as supplementation or fortification, are being implemented with varying success, but—while important—overall progress in the fight against micronutrient malnutrition has been limited. Biofortification, the breeding of crops for higher contents of vitamins and minerals, is a new approach to complement existing interventions. This chapter gives an overview of the problem of micronutrient malnutrition and how it is measured; it briefly discusses current micronutrient interventions, and then presents the reasoning behind biofortification before it examines the feasibility of biofortifying crops and summarizes studies on their potential impact and economic justification. After listing current biofortification programs, the chapter looks into the political controversy surrounding genetic engineering in agriculture and how it relates to biofortification; it then concludes with an assessment of the current status of biofortification and its potential.

Keywords: hunger, malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency, zinc deficiency, public health, biofortification, plant breeding, genetically modified organisms, disability-adjusted life years

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