Potential impacts of iron biofortification in India. Soc Sci Med

University of Hohenheim, Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences, Inst. 490b, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany.
Social Science & Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 05/2008; 66(8):1797-808. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.01.006
Source: PubMed


Iron deficiency is a widespread nutrition and health problem in developing countries, causing impairments in physical activity and cognitive development, as well as maternal mortality. Although food fortification and supplementation programmes have been effective in some countries, their overall success remains limited. Biofortification, that is, breeding food crops for higher micronutrient content, is a relatively new approach, which has been gaining international attention recently. We propose a methodology for ex ante impact assessment of iron biofortification, building on a disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) framework. This methodology is applied in an Indian context. Using a large and representative data set of household food consumption, the likely effects of iron-rich rice and wheat varieties are simulated for different target groups and regions. These varieties, which are being developed by an international public research consortium, based on conventional breeding techniques, might be ready for local distribution within the next couple of years. The results indicate sizeable potential health benefits. Depending on the underlying assumptions, the disease burden associated with iron deficiency could be reduced by 19-58%. Due to the relatively low institutional cost to reach the target population, the expected cost-effectiveness of iron biofortification compares favourably with other micronutrient interventions. Nonetheless, biofortification should not be seen as a substitute for other interventions. Each approach has its particular strengths, so they complement one another.

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    • "Rice is one of the most important cereal crop in the world, supplying a staple source of energy, protein and other nutrients to half of the world population. About 8.20 billion people in developing countries are suffering from micronutrient deficiencies, of which about 2 billion people are suffering from iron deficiency (Stein et al., 2008). Iron is an essential nutrient for humans, and must be available in the diet for proper growth and development. "
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    • "Whereas with conventional breeding this reflects the long development phase, in the case of genetic engineering this reflects the current uncertain regulatory environment, particularly trade barriers and differences in national regulatory systems that inhibit the production, transport and use of transgenic products (Ramessar et al. 2008a, 2008b). Trade barriers for transgenic crops have been erected in the EU because of the precautionary approach the regulators have chosen to follow, so developing countries (such as China and India) are pressured to not grow such products for export although they may still benefit the domestic population by improving health and wealth (FAO 2000; Buois et al. 2003; Campos-Bowers and Wittenmyer 2007; Christou and Twyman 2004; Stein et al. 2008). "
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