From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Food fortification
Mains level : Paper 3- Nutrition security through food fortification
On August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that, by 2024, rice provided to the poor under any government scheme — PDS, mid-day-meal, anganwadi — will be fortified.
Need for nutrition security in India
- 15.3 per cent of the country’s population is undernourished.
- India has the highest proportion of “stunted” (30 per cent) and “wasted” children (17.3 per cent) below five years of age, as per the FAO’s recent publication, ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2021’.
- These figures indicate that India is at a critical juncture with respect to nutritional security.
- Other factors: Other factors like poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation, low levels of immunization and education, especially of women, contribute equally to this dismal situation.
India’s journey towards nutrition security
- As per the ICAR website, they had developed 21 varieties of biofortified staples including wheat, rice, maize, millets, mustard, groundnut by 2019-20.
- These varieties are not genetically modified.
- These biofortified crops have 1.5 to 3 times higher levels of protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids compared to the traditional varieties.
- A research team at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute in Mohali has also developed biofortified colored wheat (black, blue, purple) that is rich in zinc and anthocyanins.
- The HarvestPlus program of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has been working closely with ICAR, to improve the access of the poor in India to iron-rich pearl millet and zinc-rich wheat.
- Globally, more than 40 countries have released biofortified crops, benefitting over 48 million people.
- Leveraging science to attack the complex challenge of malnutrition, particularly for low-income and vulnerable sections of society, can be a good intervention.
Challenges in securing nutrition security
- Access to nutritious food is only one of the determinants of nutrition.
- Other factors like poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation, low levels of immunization and education, especially of women, contribute equally to this dismal situation.
- Need for a multi-pronged approach: In the long run, India needs a multi-pronged approach to eliminate the root cause of this complex problem.
Way forward: Multi-pronged approach
1) Focus on mother’s education
- There is a direct correlation between a mother’s education and the well-being of children.
- Targeted programs for improving the educational status of girls and reducing school dropout rates need to be promoted.
- The Global Nutrition Report (2014) estimates that every dollar invested in a proven nutrition program offers benefits worth 16 dollars.
2) Scale-up innovation in biofortified food by supporting policies
- Innovations in biofortified food can alleviate malnutrition only when they are scaled up with supporting policies.
- This would require increasing expenditure on agri-R&D and incentivizing farmers by linking their produce to lucrative markets through sustainable value chains and distribution channels.
- The government can also rope in the private sector to create a market segment for premium-quality biofortified foods.
- For instance, trusts run by the TATA group are supporting different states to initiate fortification of milk with Vitamin A and D.
3) National awareness drive
- A national awareness drive on the lines of the “Salt Iodisation Programme” launched by the government in 1962 can play an important role at the individual and community levels to achieve the desired goals of poshan for all.
- Branding, awareness campaigns, social and behavioral change initiatives, can promote the consumption of locally available, nutrient-dense affordable foods among the poor and children.
Consider the question” Access to nutritious food is only one of the determinants of nutrition, and fortified food can play important role in this direction. Suggest the other measures to ensure nutrition safety in India.”
Biofortified food is a step in the right direction, however, other factors should also be given equal attention in securing national security in India.