Committed to Alleviating Malnutrition, India Declares Minimum Levels for Iron and Zinc in Pearl Millet
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has established minimum levels of iron and zinc to be bred into national varieties of pearl millet. The news comes during the National Year of Millets and as the government of India articulates its vision for a Kuposhan Mukt Bharat (Malnutrition Free India) by 2022. In India, 59% of children under five and 54% of pregnant women are anemic, while 38% of children in the same age group are stunted. Diets deficient in iron and zinc are a major cause of anemia and stunting, respectively.
For resource-poor farming families or rural communities who rely on staple crops like pearl millet for much of their diet, nutrient-enriched versions of these crops present a cost-effective, sustainable strategy to improve nutrition. Biofortification, which uses conventional breeding to increase micronutrient levels of food crops, helps address preventable deficiencies of key vitamins and minerals like iron, vitamin A and zinc. This hidden hunger often results from diets lacking in diversity or essential nutrients. The Indian government has therefore committed to reaching vulnerable populations with this agricultural-nutrition innovation.