The Biofortification Hoax to Solve Malnutrition

The Biofortification Hoax to Solve Malnutrition

Biofortification seeks to increase the content of a few nutrients in crops through plant breeding, either using conventional techniques or biotechnology.

Biofortification is a method through which crops with high nutrient density are selected, through conventional practices of plant genetic improvement and modern biotechnology, to produce better food and combat anemia and micronutrient deficiencies in the human body .

To achieve good nutrition and maintain health, we must consume a variety of foods that have about forty nutrients. But research on biofortified crops focuses on only three: zinc, iron, and vitamin A.

"Biofortification is a business strategy,
not a solution to global malnutrition. "
Sylvia Mallari, of the Peoples' Coalition for Food Sovereignty

Research under development corresponds to biofortified rice, wheat, sorghum, bananas, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, beans and corn in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Where does the financing come from?

Part of this research is managed by the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) divided into three units: the International Rice Research Institute, focusing on genetically modified rice; the International Potato Center, focused on sweet potatoes, and the HarvestPlus program, which coordinates the rest. Funding comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID, among others. Private investigation is funded by PepsiCo, Dupont, Bayer, and Nestlé among others.

The main argument for installing biofortification is that this is the cheapest way to deal with malnutrition: once the plant is grown, it can grow again and again.

Misleading terminology

Misleading language is often used to promote these crops, beginning with the term "biofortified" which suggests that all other foods or plants are inherently weak or deficient.

Terms like "golden rice", "super banana", "orange corn" are used to convince consumers that biofortified versions of these particular seeds or foods are superior to their non-biofortified counterparts. Furthermore, these names, like the crops themselves, are sometimes registered as intellectual property even though their use is proposed as free of charge or free of charge.

The current state of the biofortified

To date, some three hundred varieties of biofortified crops have been developed or released around the world. Although to date none of those released to farmers is genetically modified, several are already in the process of being released.

Target population

Women and children are the target, the "main beneficiaries" of biofortified crops. But more often than not, rural communities and women's groups around the world see diversified local food systems and traditional diets as the real solution to poverty and malnutrition.

GRAIN and its friends launched a call to action: we invited women's groups and farmers' organizations to examine the issue of biofortification - locally, regionally, nationally or globally. There is enough information and experience to justify us launching aboycott all biofortified crops or foods, and that we associate it with the demand for investment in a different approach to agricultural research based on agroecology, local cultures and food sovereignty.

We therefore propose that all alternative approaches to solving hunger and malnutrition are based on the following five principles:

  • Share information and promote education around healthy lifestyles and diets, with an emphasis on women and gender equality.
  • Strengthen the leadership of women in decision-making in public policies and in research on food systems.
  • Promote diversity in agriculture and diets, rather than monocultures and single foods. This includes valuing local plants and animals, food cultures, seeds, and local knowledge that sustain health and keep communities strong.
  • Lower the cost and increase the availability of fruits and vegetables, partly redirecting subsidies and other public funds that currently promote industrial goods and processed food products.
  • Resist the neoliberal food and agriculture grab that treats food and crops as commodities and patentable intellectual property to facilitate corporate profits. Going to the root causes of poverty and hunger implies that we keep food and agriculture under community and public control.

GRAIN, Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP), Food Sovereignty Alliance India, People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) African Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA), Eastern & Southern Africa Farmers ’Forum (ESAFF) and Growth Partners Africa | July 2019

- To download the full report (PDF), click on the following link: What's wrong with the biofort… (1,009.18 kB)

Video: The Imperiled Food Supply (July 2021).