Crop Bio-fortification: Objectives, Processes, Benefits and Limitations

Food fortification or enrichment is the umbrella term that means the addition of nutrients to food to increase its nutritional value.

This is practiced in order to fortify foods with rich nutrients to fight nutrient deficiency among people.


Types of Food Fortification 

There are two types or methods of fortification, one is commercial or industrial fortification.

This is usually done to staple foods. And the other is biofortification which can be done through selective breeding or genetic engineering.

In the first fortification method, the nutrients in the crop are increased manually during crop processing.

That’s why it’s called the commercial or industrial method.

What does biofortification means

Crop Biofortification 

But when it comes to bio-fortification, the nutrients in the crop are enhanced with the help of modern biotechnology or with conventional plant breeding.

Through this method, the quality of the food will be increased.

This will be a great advantage as the process will help in feeding millions of people nutrient-rich food since fortified and enriched foods are healthy.

This particular process will be applied in scenarios where the basic supplementation will not be sufficient.

Before going further, there are other forms of fortification with different principles if carrying out the processes.

Food supplementation, adulteration, and genetic modification. And there are pros and cons to these forms of food fortification.


How is Food Bio-Fortification Carried Out

In the process of food bio-fortification, unlike the normal fortification process, nutrients are not added to the harvested food.

Instead, the actual plant of the crop will be altered.

The nutrients such as zinc, iron, vitamin A, and Selenium could be added to the crop directly which will help the crop in producing its sufficient nutrients.

Agronomic biofortification can be done to cereals such as maize, wheat, barley, buckwheat, oat, rice, and others to produce improved varieties of the grain, fortified with micronutrients in high proportion.

This is a good alternative that can be used in situations where normal fortification will not work.

The conventional method of fortification has been in practice for centuries together.

The fact is that, in the pastimes, the food fortification was based on the breed of the crop.

If the crop looked healthy and good, then it will be kept aside for replanting the next year.

This is the same case with the seeds which are high in quality.

When technology started to inhibit the field of agriculture, the breeding method of plants got enhanced.

As a result, bio-fortification started to come into place.

With this technique, certain qualities in the crops or certain traits will be noticed and set aside. These traits will be selectively chosen and enhanced to bring in better varieties in the crops.

To increase the iron in rice, the process of biofortification is performed as of now.

The same scenario applies to the addition of zinc in wheat-based crops. In the current scenario, when there is a need to increase the amino acids and protein, bio-fortification is chosen.


Benefits of Bio-fortification

This method of bio-fortification is longstanding. So the method can be passed on from one generation to another.

This will save all the investment in terms of money and in terms of time.

While the addition of nutrients seems to be an unavoidable task, going with this method will be cheaper and hence save a lot of money.

The initial investment will be less and it will be needed only once. There will not be any additional money needed throughout the process.

Many staple foods are becoming scarce as the population is increasing day by day.

With the help of bio-fortification, this scarcity can be reduced and poor people will also get access to crops that are rich in nutrients.

The crops which are formed as a result of this process will be stronger compared to the normal crops.

Due to this fact, these crops will not be affected by drought or by disease easily.

To achieve a success rate in this process, it is important to choose the crops which will be suitable for bio-fortification and local breeding.

Also, the crop availability should be checked. The acceptance of this crop might be a concern among the local breeders as well as the local consumers.

Since the initial cost of the investment might be an issue for underdeveloped countries, there should be assistance given for successful bio-fortification.

But then again the profit obtained might not be very high here. So this process might be unattractive to the private sector.

The growth of this process based only on government funding might put the process in jeopardy.