A new study published by Earthscan analyses the current trends in rice biofortification research efforts and aims to encourage a more comprehensive approach that takes into account cultural, geographical and societal factors.
Biofortification is the enrichment of staple food crops with essential micronutrients and has been heralded as ‘a uniquely sustainable solution to the problem of micronutrient deficiency’ (Brooks). Nearly 2 billion people around the world are affected by micronutrient deficiency and, according to the World Health Organisation, it is the leading cause of death through disease in developing countries.
Rice provides 20% of the world’s dietary energy supply. Improving rice’s nutrient level could help boost nutrition levels for the large proportion of the global population who rely on it as their predominant staple crop.
In this report, the author Sally Brooks examines the international rice biofortification efforts taking place around the world, investigating the history of bridging the fields of agriculture, nutrition and health.
Brooks, a research officer at the STEPS centre, argues that increasing concerns over food security are pushing policymakers towards taking top-down approaches to science and research policy, which risks missing out on important factors associated with the specifics of the location. Such ‘bottom-up’ factors involve the interactions between people and their environment. She questions whether biofortification offers a ‘illuminating lens’ through which to question whether the future of development may follow this ‘silver bullet’ formula of ‘global science, public goods’. In her conclusions, Brooks draws recommendations that might allow more diverse and context-responsive alternatives to emerge.