Institutionalizing the Biofortification Strategy in a Sustainable Way: The Case of Brazil

14 Apr 2008 Most efforts to combat micronutrient deficiency in the developing world focus on providing vitamin and mineral supplements to the poor and on fortifying foods with these nutrients through postharvest processing. The introduction of biofortified crops – varieties bred for increased mineral and vitamin content – could complement existing nutrition interventions and provide a sustainable, low-cost way of combating malnutrition. In Brazil, the activities of the HarvestPlus challenge Program on Biofortification and of the AgroSalud Program are coordinated by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), which includes a number of research centers that are part of the biofortification network. The difference between the two programs is that the AgroSalud Program has a focus on Latin America and The Caribbean and on postharvest processing. The main food staples under research in Brazil are: cassava, sweet potato, rice, common beans, maize, cowpea and wheat. Embrapa Cassava and Tropical Fruits has already released two varieties of cassava with higher levels of beta-carotene and, in the last two years, is monitoring their performance in the semi-arid region of the country. Researchers of Embrapa Maize and Sorghum implemented the quality protein maize (QPM), which has 50% more lysine and tryptophan; from these QPM varieties, it is expected the development of maize with higher levels of beta-carotene, zinc and iron. Some common beans genotypes evaluated by Embrapa Rice and Beans, presented iron and zinc levels 50% and 43% higher than the ones of conventional cultivars, respectively; however, the productivity is still a challenge for the breeders. Also, a cowpea variety, with higher levels of iron was identified by Embrapa Mid-North and will be released in 2008. Concerning partnerships, the state of Maranhao was the first to structure a biofortification network of public institutions for the introduction in the fields of biofortified crop varieties. Marilia Nutti
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