Are Vegetables Losing Their Nutrients? Is It Possible to Reverse the Decline?

### Nutrient Decline in Crops: A Growing Concern
In 2004, researchers at the University of Texas found that 43 foods, mostly vegetables, had experienced a significant decrease in nutrients between the mid and late 20th century. Calcium in green beans dropped from 65 to 37mg, vitamin A levels in asparagus plummeted by almost half, and broccoli stalks had less iron. Since then, further studies have shown that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are contributing to the declining nutrient value in staple crops. A 2018 study on rice found that higher CO2 levels reduced its protein, iron, and zinc content.

### Biofortification: A Solution to Nutrient Loss
To address the declining nutrient content in crops, biofortification has emerged as a strategy to replenish lost nutrients or enhance the nutritional value of foods. Biofortification involves various technologies, including genetic modification, agronomic approaches, and selective plant breeding. This process aims to put nutrients directly into the seed, as opposed to fortification, which adds nutrients to food after it has been grown.

### HarvestPlus: Leading the Way in Biofortification
HarvestPlus, an organization under the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is at the forefront of biofortification efforts. Working with governments in over 30 countries, HarvestPlus has developed more than 400 biofortified varieties of staple crops. By 2030, the organization estimates that 1 billion people will benefit from biofortified foods. While biofortification shows promise in improving global nutrition, some experts believe it is a temporary solution rather than a long-term fix for nutrient deficiencies.

### Challenges and Concerns Surrounding Biofortification
One of the limitations of biofortification is its focus on a few specific nutrients per plant while nutrient decline affects multiple nutrients simultaneously. Accessibility to biofortified seeds remains a challenge, with inconsistent supply and affordability issues. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the influence of powerful nations on shaping global food systems and promoting biofortification as a solution to issues that stem from industrial agriculture practices. While biofortification may offer benefits in addressing malnutrition, a more comprehensive approach that considers local growing conditions and diversified crop systems may be necessary for sustainable change.

Original Story at – 2024-03-28 16:54:00

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