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Economics of Biofortification


  • Qaim, Matin
  • Stein, Alexander J.
  • Meenakshi, J.V.


Micronutrient malnutrition affects billions of people world-wide, causing serious health problems. Different micronutrient interventions are currently being used, but their overall coverage is relatively limited. Biofortification that is, breeding staple food crops for higher micronutrient contents has been proposed as a new agriculture-based approach. Yet, as biofortified crops are still under development, relatively little is known about their economic impacts and wider ramifications. In this article, the main factors that will influence their future success are discussed, and a methodology for economic impact assessment is presented, combining agricultural, nutrition, and health aspects. Ex ante studies from India and other developing countries suggest that biofortified crops can reduce the problem of micronutrient malnutrition in a cost-effective way, when they are targeted to specific situations. Projected social returns on research investments are high and competitive with productivity-enhancing agricultural technologies. These promising results notwithstanding, biofortification should be seen as a complement rather than a substitute for existing micronutrient interventions, since the magnitude and complexity of the problem necessitate a multiplicity of approaches. Further research is needed to corroborate these findings and to address certain issues still unresolved at this stage.

Suggested Citation

  • Qaim, Matin & Stein, Alexander J. & Meenakshi, J.V., 2006. "Economics of Biofortification," 2006 Annual Meeting, August 12-18, 2006, Queensland, Australia 25584, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae06:25584

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ruel, Marie T. & Bouis, Howarth E., 1997. "Plant breeding," FCND discussion papers 30, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Stein, Alexander J. & Meenakshi, J.V. & Qaim, Matin & Nestel, Penelope & Sachdev, H.P.S. & Bhutta, Zulfiqar A., 2005. "Health benefits of biofortification - an ex-ante analysis of iron-rich rice and wheat in India," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19468, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    3. Zimmermann, Roukayatou & Qaim, Matin, 2004. "Potential health benefits of Golden Rice: a Philippine case study," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 147-168, April.
    4. Alston, Julian M. & Wyatt, T. J. & Pardey, Philip G. & Marra, Michele C. & Chan-Kang, Connie, 2000. "A meta-analysis of rates of return to agricultural R & D: ex pede Herculem?," Research reports 113, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Horton, S. & Ross, J., 2003. "The economics of iron deficiency," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 51-75, February.
    6. Robert J. Brent, 2014. "Cost–Benefit Analysis and Health Care Evaluations, Second Edition," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14892.
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    8. Dawe, D. & Robertson, R. & Unnevehr, L., 2002. "Golden rice: what role could it play in alleviation of vitamin A deficiency?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(5-6), pages 541-560.
    9. Fiedler, John L. & Dado, Dyezebel R. & Maglalang, Hector & Juban, Noel & Capistrano, Melgabal & Magpantay, Maria Vicenta, 2000. "Cost analysis as a vitamin A program design and evaluation tool: a case study of the Philippines," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 223-242, July.
    10. Stein, Alexander J. & Sachdev, H.P.S. & Qaim, Matin, 2006. "Potential Impacts of Golden Rice on Public Health in India," 2006 Annual Meeting, August 12-18, 2006, Queensland, Australia 25381, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    11. Laurian J. Unnevehr, 1986. "Consumer Demand for Rice Grain Quality and Returns to Research for Quality Improvement in Southeast Asia," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 68(3), pages 634-641.
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    Cited by:

    1. Asare-Marfo, Dorene & Birol, Ekin & Gonzalez, Carolina & Moursi, Mourad & Perez, Salomon & Schwarz, Jana & Zeller, Manfred, 2013. "Prioritizing countries for biofortification Interventions using country-level data," HarvestPlus Working Papers 11, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. de Haen, Hartwig & Klasen, Stephan & Qaim, Matin, 2011. "What do we really know? Metrics for food insecurity and undernutrition," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(6), pages 760-769.
    3. Etumnu, Chinonso, 2016. "Behavioral Determinants of Biofortified Food Acceptance: The Case of Orange-fleshed Sweet Potato in Ghana," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 235249, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Horton, Sue & Wesley, Annie & Venkatesh Mannar, M.G., 2011. "Double-fortified salt reduces anemia, benefit:cost ratio is modestly favorable," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 581-587, October.
    5. Ecker, Olivier & Qaim, Matin, 2008. "Income and Price Elasticities of Food Demand and Nutrient Consumption in Malawi," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6349, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    6. Ecker, Olivier & Qaim, Matin, 2011. "Analyzing Nutritional Impacts of Policies: An Empirical Study for Malawi," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 412-428, March.
    7. Nguema, Abigail & Norton, George W. & Fregene, Martin & Sayre, Richard & Manary, Mark, 2011. "Expected economic benefits of meeting nutritional needs through biofortified cassava in Nigeria and Kenya," African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, African Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 6(1), March.
    8. Gunaratna, Nilupa S. & Groote, Hugo De & Nestel, Penelope & Pixley, Kevin V. & McCabe, George P., 2010. "A meta-analysis of community-based studies on quality protein maize," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 202-210, June.
    9. Gonzalez, Carolina & Perez Suarez, Salomon & Cardoso, Carlos Estevao Leite & Andrade, Robert & Johnson, Nancy L., 2012. "Analysis of Diffusion Strategies in Northeast Brazil for New Cassava Varieties With Inproved Nutritional Quality," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 126695, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    10. Qaim, Matin, 2014. "Evaluating nutrition and health impacts of agricultural innovations," Discussion Papers 185785, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
    11. Banerji, Abhijit & Birol, Ekin & Karandikar, Bhushana & Rampal, Jeevant, 2016. "Information, branding, certification, and consumer willingness to pay for high-iron pearl millet: Evidence from experimental auctions in Maharashtra, India," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 133-141.
    12. Carolina González & Nancy Johnson & Matin Qaim, 2009. "Consumer Acceptance of Second-Generation GM Foods: The Case of Biofortified Cassava in the North-east of Brazil," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 604-624.

    More about this item


    micronutrient malnutrition; public health; biofortification; agricultural technology; impact analysis; developing countries; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; I1; I3; O1; O3; Q1;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • Q1 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture


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