Washington D.C., March 27, 2017 — HarvestPlus, a global leader in the research and delivery of biofortified foods, joins 11 other innovators in San Francisco on March 29-31 for the LAUNCH Food Forum, which recognizes those with viable solutions for improving health outcomes around the world.
From a pool of 280 applications from 74 countries, HarvestPlus was chosen for its work in the field of biofortification, which is the process of using traditional plant breeding to develop new, more nutritious varieties of crops like sweet potatoes, beans, wheat, maize/corn, and rice. These improved varieties provide higher amounts of vitamin A, iron, and zinc — the three micronutrients identified by the World Health Organization as most lacking in diets globally.
“Biofortification is incredibly beneficial to vulnerable groups in rural farming communities, especially women and children. We are already reaching 20 million people with biofortified crops, but with support from LAUNCH, we hope to expand our operations into Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia, where a staggering one in three children are growing up stunted due to a lack of sufficient nutrition,” said HarvestPlus CEO Bev Postma, adding that HarvestPlus aims to reach one billion people with biofortified crops by the year 2030.
Two billion people lack essential vitamins and minerals, often referred to as ‘hidden hunger’ -- a vast majority of them are in developing countries. Although Asia has achieved significant progress in reducing malnourishment rates over the last decade, it is still home to two-thirds of the malnourished in the world.
HarvestPlus works with governments, NGOs, and the private sector in countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean to drive the global biofortification effort, and also works on a more grassroots level to ensure acceptance of the crops by farmers and consumers, cost-effectiveness, sustainability and adaptation.
Micronutrient deficiencies can cause a range of health problems including stunting, a compromised immune system and even death. Up to half a million children go blind each year because of vitamin A deficiency, one of the reasons why HarvestPlus’ vitamin A rich sweet potato was recognized by TIME in their list of “Best Inventions of 2016.”
Biofortified crops have shown significant health benefits including improved vision, and reduction in anemia and in the prevalence and duration of diarrhea.
LAUNCH Innovator submissions were invited from academics, companies, entrepreneurs, inventors, non-profit organizations, research institutions, national laboratories and government agencies.
During the three-day forum, held at Fort Baker, innovators will receive tailored feedback, creative support and opportunities for funding.
LAUNCH was founded in 2009 by NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State and NIKE Inc. Its mission is to build a community of innovators, thought leaders and decision makers to scale solutions for positive change toward a more sustainable society.