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Plant breeding


  • Ruel, Marie T.
  • Bouis, Howarth E.


Because trace minerals are important not only for human nutrition, but for plant nutrition as well, plant breeding holds great promise for making a significant low-cost and sustainable contribution to reducing micronutrient deficiencies in humans, and may have important spinoff effects for increasing farm productivity in developing countries in an environmentally beneficial way. This paper describes ongoing plant breeding research that could increase the intake of bioavailable zinc from food staple crops among vulnerable populations in developing countries. The three most promising plant breeding strategies to achieve this goal are (1) increasing the concentration of zinc in the plant, (2) reducing the amount of phytic acid (a strong inhibitor of zinc absorption), and (3) raising the levels of sulfur-containing amino acids (which are thought to promote zinc absorption). The agronomic advantages and disadvantages as well as the potential benefits and limitations of each approach for human nutrition are described. Research is currently underway to identify the optimal combination of these approaches that will maximize impact on human zinc nutrition.

Suggested Citation

  • Ruel, Marie T. & Bouis, Howarth E., 1997. "Plant breeding," FCND discussion papers 30, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:fcnddp:30

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Matin Qaim & Alexander J. Stein & J. V. Meenakshi, 2007. "Economics of biofortification," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 37(s1), pages 119-133, December.
    2. Stein, Alexander J. & Sachdev, H.P.S. & Qaim, Matin, 2006. "Can genetic engineering for the poor pay off? An ex-ante evaluation of Golden Rice in India," Research in Development Economics and Policy (Discussion Paper Series) 8534, Universitaet Hohenheim, Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences in the Tropics and Subtropics.
    3. 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).
    4. Goletti, Francesco & Wolff, Christiane, 1999. "The impact of postharvest research," MTID discussion papers 29, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Ruel, Marie T. & Levin, Carol E., 2000. "Assessing the potential for food-based strategies to reduce Vitamin A and iron deficiencies," FCND briefs 92, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Gutner, Tammi, 1999. "The political economy of Food subsidy reform in Egypt," FCND briefs 1, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Yigezu A. Yigezu & John H. Sanders, 2008. "Introducing New Technologies And Marketing Strategies For Households With Malnutrition: An Ethiopian Case Study," Working Papers 08-05, Purdue University, College of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    8. Stein, Alexander J. & Meenakshi, J.V. & Qaim, Matin & Nestel, Penelope & Sachdev, H.P.S. & Bhutta, Zulfiqar A., 2008. "Potential impacts of iron biofortification in India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(8), pages 1797-1808, April.
    9. Ecker, Olivier & Mabiso, Athur & Kennedy, Adam & Diao, Xinshen 22905, 2011. "Making agriculture pro-nutrition: Opportunities in Tanzania," IFPRI discussion papers 1124, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    10. repec:pit:wpaper:269 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Anderson, Kym & Jackson, Lee Ann, 2004. "Implications of genetically modified food technology policies for Sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3411, The World Bank.


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