Ludhiana, Feb 27 (UNI) Biofortification-breeding varieties for increased mineral and vitamin content can provide a cost-effective and sustainable solution to combat malnutrition.
This observation was made by Dr Parminder Singh Virk, Senior Scientist from the Philippines based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), during his talk with the faculty, students and researchers of Department of Plant Breeding, Genetics and School of Agricultural Biotechnology of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) here today.
Dr Virk said due to high per capita consumption of rice, a small increase in its nutritive value would be highly useful.
Micronutrient-fortified varieties are likely to have much more impact on rural farmers, who grow and consume them as staple food, he added.
Sharing information about the research programmes focused at this novel approach, Dr Virk said IRRI is developing rice varieties with enhanced levels of iron and zinc and with pro-vitamin A. He informed that currently four PAU scientists are receiving training in this area at IRRI.
Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world and nearly two billion people are anaemic, he said.
Likewise, abut a billion people are at risk for zinc deficiency, while nearly 127 million pre-school children are suffering from vitamin A deficiency.
About 10 million pregnant women in India alone are vitamin A deficient, Dr Virk said emphasising the importance of bio-fortified and nutritious food grain varieties.
''It is well known that deficiencies of these micro nutrients result into impaired physical growth, vision, reproductive development, mental development and learning capacity of the subjects,'' he said, while emphasising that India should step up research of micronutriet-fortified varieties particularly of rice, which is the dominant cereal crop in most Asian countries and is the staple food for more than half of the world's population.
PAU Vice-Chancellor, Dr Manjit Singh Kang in his lecturer, said there was a need to reduce micronutrient malnutrition by developing nutrient-dense staple foods through breeding techniques.
He further said the proportion of under-nourished population is confined to less developed countries.
The Dean of College of Agriculture Dr M S Aulakh on this occasion said students should be made aware of the novel areas of agricultural research such as biofortification through developing course curriculum. He added that student research projects should consider this area for their degree programmes.
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