(GS PAPER- 3, Issues Related to development, Health
Source- The Hindu)
- Researchers from various institutes under the Indian Council of Agriculture and Research and Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya found decreasing trends in grain density of zinc and iron in rice and wheat cultivated in India Recently.
- The researchers composed seeds of rice (16 varieties) and wheat (18 varieties) from the gene bank perpetuated at the ICAR’s Cultivar repositories.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research:
- It is an autonomous set up under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
- It is the supreme body for coordinating, guiding, and managing research and education in agriculture encompassing horticulture, fisheries, and animal sciences in the entire country.
- It was framed on 16th July 1929 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- It is headquartered in New Delhi. With 102 ICAR institutes and 71 agricultural universities spread in the country, this is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the globalized world.
- Cultivar repositories are nodal institutes that persist and archive the old cultivars or varieties from our country.
Concentrations in Rice:
- Zinc and iron attentiveness in grains of rice cultivars released within the 1960s were 27.1 mg/kg and 59.8 mg/kg. This reduced to 20.6 mg/kg and 43.1 mg/kg, respectively within the 2000s.
Concentrations in Wheat:
- The concentrations of zinc and iron were 33.3 mg/kg and about 57.6 mg/kg in cultivars of the 1960s, dropped to 23.5 mg/kg and 46.4 mg/kg, respectively in cultivars released during the 2010s.
Reason for the reduction:
- Dilution effect’ is caused by reducing nutrient concentration in response to higher grain yield. This means the rate of yield increase is not remunerated by the rate of nutrient take-up by the plants. Also, the soils helping plants could be low in plant-available nutrients.
Suggestions by experts-
- Growing newer-released (the 1990s and later) cultivars of rice and wheat cannot be a viable option to alleviate zinc and iron malnutrition in the Indian population.
- Zinc and iron scarcity affects billions of people globally and the countries with this deficiency have diets composed mainly of rice, wheat, corn, and barley.
- The negative effects need to be bypassed by improving the grain ionome (that is, nutritional make-up) while releasing cultivars in future breeding programs.
- There is a need to put focus on other options like biofortification, where we breed food crops that are rich in micronutrients.
- Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is elevated through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern technology
Initiatives Taken by India:
- Recently, the Prime Minister devoted nearly 17 biofortified varieties of 8 crops to the nation. Some examples are as follows:
- Rice- CR DHAN 315 has an excess amount of zinc.
- Wheat- HI 1633 rich in protein, iron, and zinc, etc.
- Maize- Hybrid varieties 1, 2, and 3 are value-added with lysine and tryptophan.
- Madhuban Gajar, a biofortified carrot diversity, is benefitting more than 150 local farmers in Junagadh, Gujarat. It has higher β-carotene and iron-rich materials
- ICAR has initiated a Nutri-Sensitive Agricultural Resources and Innovations (NARI) program for encouraging family farming linking agriculture to nutrition, Nutri-smart villages for enhancing nutritional security and location-specific nutrition garden models are being evolved to ensure access to locally available, healthy, and diversified diet with adequate macro and micronutrients.
- The production of biofortified crop varieties will be value riched and linked with government programs of mid-day meals, Anganwadi, etc. to minimize malnutrition.
Importance of Biofortification:
- Improved Health: Biofortified staple crops, when devoured regularly, will generate quantifiable improvements in human health and nutrition.
- Higher Resilience: Biofortified crops are also often more irrepressible to pests, diseases, higher temperatures, drought and provide a high yield.
- Greater Reach: Biofortification puts an important gap as it facilitates a food-based, sustainable and low-dose alternative to iron supplementation. It does not need behavior change, can reach the poorest sections of the society, and reinforce local farmers.
- Cost-Effective: After the beginning investment to develop the biofortified seed, it can be replicated and distributed without any subtraction in the micronutrient concentration. This makes it cost-effective and sustainable for the nation.
Challenges for Biofortification in India:
- Lack of Acceptance: Lack of consumer affirmation due to color changes and last-mile reach of fortified food remains a big challenge for countrymen.
- Cost: Adoption by farmers and cost involved in the method of fortification.
- Slow Process: Though biofortification can be done by using a non-genetically-modified procedure it is a slower process than genetic modification.
- Because of the pervasiveness of diverse food practices in the country, biofortification will need to achieve high rates of adoption and consumption in geographically distinct territories.
- The master plan for the delivery of biofortified crops must be tailored to the local context for each crop–nutrient pair.
- The government should ease public-private partnerships. Private sector arrangements can leverage technological solutions for scaling up food fortification initiatives, and accompany the government’s outreach efforts through mass awareness and education campaigns in communities.
- The Absence of nutrition is not only a contradiction of a fundamental human right, but it is also poor economics.
- Biofortification is a limited solution, which must go hand in hand with efforts to decrease poverty, food insecurity, disease, poor sanitation, social and gender inequality in the country.
– Khyati Khare