Every year, on April 7th, World Health Day is observed, highlighting significant health issues, and advocating for global health awareness. The theme for World Health Day 2024 is “My Health, My Right,” emphasizing the universal right to quality health services, education, safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition and information among others. Among the myriad approaches to promote health and nutrition, biofortification stands out as a promising strategy with far-reaching benefits.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimal health throughout life. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients is not only fundamental for physical growth and development but also crucial for bolstering the immune system, preventing chronic diseases, and promoting mental well-being. Unfortunately, more than 3 billion people around the world—mostly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America—simply cannot afford a diverse and nourishing diet that meets their nutritional needs.

Biofortification offers a sustainable solution to address malnutrition by enhancing the nutritional quality of staple crops. Through conventional breeding of staple crops, biofortification increases the micronutrient content of essential vitamins and minerals in staple crops such as rice, wheat, maize, and beans—making everyday meals more nutritious.

For over two decades, HarvestPlus has been at the forefront of biofortification, enriching diets and improving nutrition of over 100 million people at the farming households. These biofortified crops, when consumed as part of daily meals, can significantly improve the micronutrient intake of vulnerable populations.

HarvestPlus has developed biofortified crops enriched with vitamin A, iron and zinc.  Vitamin A deficiency is a significant public health concern, particularly in low-income countries, where it contributes to impaired vision, weakened immune function, and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. By incorporating vitamin A rich biofortified crops into diets, communities can combat this deficiency effectively, promoting eye health and overall resilience against illnesses.

Similarly, iron and zinc deficiencies pose significant health challenges worldwide, particularly among pregnant women and young children. Biofortified crops offer a sustainable solution to address these deficiencies, reducing the prevalence of anemia and stunted growth, and improving cognitive development and immune function. By improving the nutritional content of staple crops, biofortification reduces dependency on external supplementation or industrial fortification programs, empowering communities to produce and consume nutritious foods locally. Moreover, biofortified crops are often developed to withstand environmental stresses, such as drought or soil depletion, contributing to resilient agricultural systems capable of withstanding climate change’s adverse effects.

Despite its immense potential, the widespread adoption of biofortification requires concerted efforts from various stakeholders. Governments, international organizations, research institutions, and agricultural communities must continue collaborating to prioritize biofortification research and development, facilitate seed dissemination, and promote consumer awareness and acceptance.

In conclusion, as we commemorate World Health Day, let us remember that good health starts on our plates. By embracing biofortification and promoting balanced diets rich in essential nutrients, we can pave the way towards a healthier, more prosperous future for all.