“If you can have a standard that is going to make food systems more nutritious, then that is just so exciting.”
The quote is from Jenny Walton, Head of Commercialization and Scaling for the CGIAR’s HarvestPlus program, who was speaking on the Standards Show, the podcast of the British Standards Institute (BSI). As part of their Farm to Fork series, she appeared on an episode about food innovation. Walton talked to the hosts about new standards for nutrient enriched (biofortified) grains that will facilitate trade in these grains on a global scale. Listen to the episode below:
HarvestPlus is the technical author of the standards, which were developed in partnership with BSI and a multidisciplinary international steering group. BSI recently published a Publicly Available Standard (PAS) for vitamin A-enriched grains, completing a set of three PAS; two previously released PAS cover zinc-enriched and iron-enriched grains.
All three PAS were sponsored by the Commercialization of Biofortified Crops (CBC) Programme, which is a partnership between the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and HarvestPlus, and funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. PAS development was facilitated by BSI Standards Limited and published under license from BSI.
“For growers to have a produce that confirms to a standard is really important. They are able to talk with confidence and say, ‘I have grown this grain that confirms to [the standard], and that instantly shows value to traders….” said Walton. “If you’re a trader and you ask for a grain that confirms to this PAS, it makes it much easier for the grower to know what to grow.”
Work is already underway to put the standards to the test in the market and calibrate them as necessary. For example, early feedback from India indicated that nutrient levels set in the iron PAS for millet may need to be adapted. That said, the PAS represent a milestone for the state of regulatory knowledge about nutrient-enriched crops, compared to when initial work on commercialization received funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office in 2016. Work will also continue to dig into the details of food labeling regulations in all countries where HarvestPlus has programs.
In addition, HarvestPlus is looking into ways to better to facilitate international trade routes for biofortified crops, which may also provide new supply options in the current wheat supply chain crisis precipitated by the Ukraine war. Countries producing zinc-biofortified wheat may be able to offer a better value proposition to supply-constrained foreign buyers, given that zinc wheat is also provides a value-added nutrition component.
Learn more about the biofortified grain standards.