Solving iron deficiencies with biofortified wheat

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In Nebraska, biofortified wheat could make it easier to help some humans get proper nutrition. Unlike fortification, which might add a mineral like iron directly to something like bread dough, the goal of biofortification is to have the wheat in the dough naturally contain more iron in the first place.

Robert Graybosch of the USDA Agricultural Research Service explains that about 60 percent of the world’s population doesn’t get enough iron because the food people eat doesn’t contain enough minerals or contains what are called antinutrients. These are molecules that prevent the body from absorbing good nutrients.

“Biofortification can be done via traditional plant breeding using natural genetic variation or natural mutations, or via genetic engineering,” Graybosch says. “If one found a mutation that resulted in more grain iron, and then bred this trait into wheat that was produced and consumed, then we could say the crop has been biofortified.”