Apr 17, 2015, updated April 2015
Micronutrients are essential for growth and development; however, deficiencies or inadequate dietary intake remain a challenge for an estimated one-third of the global population. The UN and the WHO estimate that over 2 billion people around the world, mostly young children and women of child-bearing age, suffer from deficiencies in micronutrients (i.e. essential vitamins and minerals).
Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional value of food crops is improved through biological means such as conventional plant breeding. It differs from conventional fortification in that biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during a plant’s growth stage, rather than through being added during processing. As such, biofortification could be used to reach populations where conventional fortification activities may be difficult to implement.
Biofortification requires a detailed study and analysis of the many factors that determine how a crop grows, working closely with the farmers that will harvest it. We are collaborating with agricultural research institutes in several countries, working to develop and establish supply chains for biofortified crops, to ensure that commercial quantities will be available in the future.
This is a complex process that can take years, and requires a careful and collaborative balance between stakeholders in difficult circumstances.
We are focusing on the most promising biofortified crops and have streamlined development work at our R&D centres from six staple crops in 2013 to four in 2014: maize, wheat, sweet potato and rice. For example, we are establishing a supply chain for vitamin A-rich maize in north Nigeria, where the average yield of maize in Nigeria is only 1–2 tonnes per hectare. Our aim is to significantly improve yield while at the same time providing the fortified crop for our own supply chain and for direct consumption by the local community.
Value to Society
Biofortification is different from other types of fortification as it aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during a plant’s growth stage, rather than through being added during processing. This way, farmers who supply us with raw materials like rice and wheat will also have access to these fortified foods.
Value to Nestlé
Nestlé is committed to helping to tackle undernutrition in developing countries as we believe that over the long term, healthy populations, healthy economies and healthy business performance are mutually reinforcing.
Having streamlined development work at our R&D centres from six staple crops in 2013 to four in 2014 (maize, wheat, sweet potato and rice), we will continue our work on developing our research and to making the crops available to farmers.