Zinc biofortification of food grains in relation to food security and alleviation of zinc malnutrition

Exemplary agricultural research supported by good government policies has ensured food security in India. It is the right time to focus on micronutrient malnutrition in the country. Recently, Zn deficiency in diet especially of young children below 5 years of age has received global attention. Zn deficiency diseases in infants and children include diarrhoea, pneumonia, stunted growth, weak immune system and retarded mental growth. Zn deficiency in pregnant women can lead to these problems and even mortality in infants. Over 450 thousand infant deaths in the world during 2004 were ascribed to Zn deficiency. Although Zn deficiency to some extent can be cured by Zn supplementation and improvement in dietary composition, it is better to increase the Zn content in cereals, the staple food in India and as a matter of fact in the entire south and southeast Asia. This can be achieved by biofortification of foodgrains either by developing crop cultivars with high concentration of Zn in grains or by adequate Zn fertilization of crops grown on Zn-deficient soils. Animals also suffer from Zn malnutrition.

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