‘Bio-fortification’ of crops can meet global nutrition demand

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

The benefits of bio-fortification of crops cannot be ignored, says Sainsbury’s Brand boss Judith Batchelar
The benefits of bio-fortification of crops cannot be ignored, says Sainsbury’s Brand boss Judith Batchelar
The food supply chain will need to adopt advanced technologies – such as “bio-fortification of crops” – if the world is to meet the huge nutritional challenges it faces in the years ahead, says Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s Brand, who is responsible for sustainable sourcing.

Nutrition science needed to be at the “epicentre”​ of ensuring the 9bn-plus people who are expected to populate the world by 2050 could be fed tasty, safe and nutritious food in an affordable and sustainable way, said Batchelar, a biochemist and registered nutritionist.

She was the guest of honour at last month’s British Nutrition Foundation Annual Day last month in London.

While those in the food and drink supply chain have been working for a long time on reformulation to improve the nutritional health of products by reducing salt, fat and sugar.

‘Road to reformulation’

“At some point, the road to reformulation will run out and then we will look at the nutrient quality of the crops that we are growing,”​ said Batchelar.”

Organisations, such as HarvestPlus, were already working with the World Health Organisation on ways to improve the micronutrient quality of crops – mainly iron, zinc and vitamin A, she said.

As a result of work on natural varieties and soil quality, they estimated that by 2030, 2bn people suffering from micronutrient deficiencies would be eating bio-fortified crops, she added.

Land and water used to produce food are finite and, therefore, we need to treat them with real respect, remarked Batchelar, “We also need to make sure that not only do we get what we need from that land in terms of the food we produce, but the food we produce is of great nutrient quality.”

Interdisciplinary approach

Batchelar emphasised that an interdisciplinary approach among nutrition scientists, geneticists, molecular biologists, engineers and behaviour scientists was necessary to resolve these pressing issues.

She said that scientists had a role to play in explaining to the wider public that these issues were hugely complex.

Scientists needed to explain how we take these really complex and difficult problems and provide simple solutions that can be put into practice to drive change for the good, she added.

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