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The development and deployment of biofortified staple crops to reduce nutrient deficiencies and improve food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

AgroSalud aims to address many of the nutritional problems facing Latin America and the Caribbean:  high levels of anemia mainly due to iron deficiency (McClean et al., 2007), moderate-to-high risk of zinc deficiency (IZiNCG, 2004), moderate-to-severe public health problems associated with vitamin A deficiency (Sight and Life, 2007), diets lows in protein quality (FAO, 2007a), and food insecurity (FAO, 2007b).  These issues can be summarized as nutrient deficiencies and food insecurity; these twin problems can be addressed through biofortified crops.

Biofortified crops are those developed through traditional plant-breeding to have naturally higher levels of nutrients.  In addition, these crops are bred to retain positive agronomic qualities such as high yields and disease resistance.  Through improved nutritional characteristics, AgroSalud addresses nutrient deficiencies.  Through improved agronomic traits, AgroSalud addresses food insecurity.  

In AgroSalud, the goal is to increase the nutritional content of important staple crops: iron and zinc in beans, maize, rice and sweet potato; tryptophan and lysine in maize; and beta-carotene in orange-fleshed sweet potato and yellow maize. It is hoped that the farmer families who grow biofortified crops will benefit by consuming them, as will consumers who buy these crops in the market.  Similarly, people who buy or receive food products that contain biofortified ingredients will benefit.

Several studies have demonstrated the positive impact of biofortified crops in improving the nutrient intake and nutritional status of pre-school age children consuming biofortified orange-fleshed sweet potato (Low et al., 2007 ), of school-aged children eating biofortified sweet potato (van Jaarsveld et al., 2005), and of reproductive-aged women ingesting biofortified rice (Haas et al., 2005).

The same benefits are expected in Latin America and the Caribbean through the daily consumption of several biofortified foods. 

References:

E. McClean, I.M. Egli, M.E. Cogswell, D. Wojdyla.  Worldwide estimates of anaemia prevalence in preschool aged children, women and pregnant women.  Poster presentation at Micronutrient Forum’s Consequences and Control of Micronutrient Deficiencies.  2007.  

International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group (IZiNCG).  Assessment of the risk of zinc deficiency in populations and options for its control.  2004.  http://www.izincg.org/technical.php?PHPSESSID=127c59b0aae42a833673c54812557207

Sight and Life.  La deficiencia de vitamina A en el mundo.  2007.  http://www.sightandlife.org/activity/maps/mapsS/MapWorldS.html]  

FAO.  Food consumption pattern of main food items:  dietary protein.  2007a.http://www.fao.org/faostat/foodsecurity/ ]

FAO.  Food deprivation:  Prevalence of undernourishment in total population.  2007b. http://www.fao.org/faostat/foodsecurity/ ]

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