Biofortification / BHU-35

The term was making news as Indian Scientists develop a zinc rich variety of wheat by Biofortification. Some important observations for Prelims are as follows:

What is Biofortification?

Fortification {to make rich with nutrients} is one way to fight with malnutrition. However, ordinary fortification is different from bio-fortification. One way of ordinary fortification is to mix the nutrients to the foods when they are processed. However, this leads to increase in prices, problem of quality control and possible adulteration.

However, Biofortification is the process of cross breeding the food crops in such a way that it results in increase in their inherent nutritional quality. This is how the recently announced zinc rich variety of wheat was produced. The scientists cross bred the high yield and high zinc content varieties and subjected the progenies to field trials. The progenies were found to have 40-45 ppm of zinc while the existing varieties had 29 ppm of zinc. After further trials, one of the verities BHU-35 cleared the trials and currently awaits a few more regulatory clearances before being released in Uttar Pradesh for cultivation. Seven other varieties of biofortified wheat are under trials and in the next few years they will be made available for cultivation.

We also note here that Bio-fortification is a seed-driven technology; it enables crops to extract more zinc from the soil & store it in the edible parts.

Relevance of Biofortification

The staple food of a region may be devoid of a particular nutrient. Green revolution has altered the cropping pattern and crop diversity and has led to change in dietary patterns. This has resulted in malnutrition as the food consumed by the people does not provide them with required amount of proteins, vitamins and minerals. For example in the Indo-Gangetic plains, rice and wheat have replaced many other crops. Wheat forms the staple diet in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. One of the very essential mineral missing in their diet has been found out to be zinc. Deficiency of zinc leads to malfunctioning of several proteins and enzymes and results in a variety of diseases such as diarrhoea, skin and respiratory disorders.