Recent developments in modifying crops and agronomic practice to improve human health
Malnutrition of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) affects more than two billion people worldwide, especially in developing countries, largely due to low concentrations or poor bioavailability of these nutrients in the diet. In contrast, over-consumption, particularly of over-refined cereal-based foods, has contributed to the development of an “epidemic” of metabolic diseases in some developed countries. This review highlights recent progress in modifying crops and agronomic practice to increase health benefits. Mineral concentrations or bioavailability in crop edible parts can be increased by fertilisation, breeding or biotechnology. It is also possible to modify crops using transgenic technology to enable or increase the biosynthesis of vitamins and long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or to modify the composition of starch or dietary fibre. Although technologically feasible now or in the near future, the development of micronutrient biofortified or composition-modified crops would also depend on other factors such as consumer acceptance, cost, regulations and national or international intervention.
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