Genetic Engineering and Breeding Approaches to Reduce Hidden Hunger

Genetic Engineering and Breeding Approaches to Reduce Hidden Hunger

Overall the concentration of micronutrients in cereals and other staple food crops is significantly low. Genetic engineering offers huge potential to increase the capacity of edible plants for acquiring micronutrients from soil and storing them in the seeds to improve the nutritional quality of grains. Hidden hunger can be greatly reduced by improving micronutrients uptake, translocation, and bioaccumulation in plants by genetic engineering and breeding approaches. 

Especially more efforts are required to improve micronutrients uptake and translocation in the context of food security and climate change. This purpose can be easily achieved by understanding and targeting the pillars of food security, global food security index, food sovereignty vs food security, FAO food security, global food security strategy, China food security, food security in India, USDA food security, food security issues, and global food security.

Homeostatic Mechanisms of Micronutrient Uptake in Plants

A detailed understanding of homeostatic mechanisms for the regulation of micronutrient uptake and accumulation into plant parts is required to improve food security. Micronutrients accumulation in the endosperm and its bioavailability are major limiting factors for health improvement. Some approaches of engineered plants to resolve this issue are in progress and have been practiced for the last few years.

Since the last decade focus is to enhance the Fe contents of edible plant tissues by genetic engineering through the modulation of ion chelators, sequestration proteins, and expression of Fe transporters.  By engineering approach, the antinutritional factors are reduced, and thereby the uptake of nutrients is facilitated to reduce hidden hunger.

Biofortification by Breeding Approach to Reduce Hidden Hunger 

The breeding approach is a sustainable way to increase the mineral nutrients contents of edible plant parts. Biofortification by breeding approach is an important component of public health. It is an inexpensive and relatively sustainable approach for micronutrient delivery to food crops. With time, it becomes most cost-effective.

Breeding to Produce Micronutrient Rich Produce

Plant breeding can greatly help to produce micronutrients rich planting materials for farmers which will be effective for years. Before the development of new lines of micronutrient efficient staple food crops, certain criteria should be established throughout the world. It should be assured able that people suffering from malnutrition will be getting benefits from these actions.

For this criteria crop productivity should not be reduced, otherwise, it would not be acceptable by the farmers. The enrichment of micronutrient staple food crops must have a good influence on human health. The traits of micronutrient enrichment should be relatively stable across the climatic zones and edaphic surroundings.

Therefore an understanding of plant breeding and genetic can make the world a better place for living. Plant breeding is a form of genetic engineering and both these approaches are being applied to improve food security. Moreover, genome selection in plant breeding and genome editing is also offering new horizons and research dimensions.

Although there are some concerns about genetic engineering in humans it can be efficiently used for plants. Moreover, there are hot debates about pros and cons of genetic engineering but it has huge potential for food security. Genetic engineering in agriculture can actually offer wonderful horizons to achieve food security, reduce hidden hunger, and to mitigate the effects of changing climate and global warming. Genetic engineering food can potentially improve the status and socioeconomic conditions of deprived communities.

Utilizing Improved Breeding and Genetic Engineering Approaches

Improvement in breeding approaches to increase the nutritional quality of crop plants and yield is a major concern of scientists for both public and private sectors to combat hunger and malnutrition. The performance of bred varieties can also be tested for other countries and geographics. So the benefits of initial investments can be multiplied.

The concentration of Mineral Elements and Nutrients in Plants

Considerations should be given to the concentration of mineral elements in edible plant portions as well as the number of nutrients that can be absorbed by the consumer after final processing. The concentration of mineral nutrients in edible plant tissues can be greatly affected by various cultural practices and environmental factors.

Improving Bioavailability of Mineral Elements and Nutrients

The bioavailability of enriched lines should be tested on human beings for the assurance of improvement of the micronutrient status of people depending upon those foods in traditional ways.  It should be tested that taste and cooking quality is according to consumer acceptance.

Agricultural researchers should have some kind of cooperation with specialists from other disciplines.  Therefore, there should be a good ongoing collaboration between sociologists, nutritionists, health officials, food technologists, and political scientists.

Producing Improved Genotypes

Zn and Fe efficient genotype breeding is a realistic and cost-effective approach to combat the problem of micronutrient malnutrition. However, the concentration of plant-available zinc and Fe in the soil is another important factor. The uptake, translocation, and concentration of mineral elements in plants are dependent on various factors and these factors must be regulated and optimized for better quality production.

Use of Right Kind of Fertilizers

Moreover, the most appropriate fertilizers should be applied which can ensure the maximum bioavailability of micronutrients from the soil. The bioavailability of nutrients from soil has a significant role in their uptake and accumulation in edible plant parts. The acquisition and accumulation of mineral elements in crop plants can be boosted by genotypic enhancement. Nutrients responsive verities get more nutrients from the soil.

In rice and wheat cultivated areas the deficiency between removed and applied nutrients was reported as 4-5 million tons in India. Crops with increased abilities for the acquisition of mineral nutrients and accumulation in edible tissues have been developed.

Improving Promoter Substances in Plants to Reduce Hidden Hunger

In these crop varieties, the concentration of promoter substances such as β-carotene, ascorbate, and cysteine-rich polypeptides is increased which cause stimulation for the absorption of essential mineral nutrients, and the concentration of antinutrients like polyphenolics, phytate, and oxalate is reduced which interferes and hinders the absorption of micronutrients from the soil. Globally this approach is greatly helping to reduce micronutrient malnutrition.

Efficient Extraction of Nutrients by Plants to Reduce Hidden Hunger

In developing as well in developed countries farmers are accepting the varieties which can extract nutrients more efficiently from soil and also producing higher yields. They will even take more interest because biofortified crops have a premium price and these crops can be grown on soils where bioavailability is the main problem.

Better germination, improved seedling vigor, reduced fertilizer application and resistance to pathogens give high returns to farmers. More than 40% of the world’s population will get benefit from strategies of genetic biofortification. Because this technique offers potential cost-effectiveness.

Genetic Manipulation to Reduce Hidden Hunger

To significantly increase the concentration of micronutrients in edible plant parts, genes to be articulated differentially should be targeted by appropriate localization, at the proper growing stages where the substrates for transporters are present.

Gene Targeting of Edible Plants to Reduce Hidden Hunger

To increase the contents of micronutrients in edible plant tissues multiple genes for micronutrient movement needs to be targeted instantaneously.  The expression of a set of genes can be derived by the development of inducible promoters as a potential strategy. It can increase both uptake and translocation capacity at the same time.

QTL Mapping

QTL mapping for seed mineral concentrations can reveal a master regulator, for transmission of seed micronutrient demands. It also adjusts the homeostatic mechanisms for minerals uptake and translocation. The manipulation of such regulators could be used to ideally accomplish all the steps at the same time.

Seed Multiplication by Agriculture Extension Services

The national agriculture extension wing usually multiplies the efficient seeds and they can be grown in targeted areas. It may take up to eight years to develop a variety and then to start its cultivation. Once these varieties have been implemented then a comparative study can be planned to check the effectiveness of the developed variety.

It is extremely important to improve the understanding of common people about the difference between traditional plant breeding and genetic engineering, and the similarities and differences between traditional plant breeding and genetic engineering. So that they can easily compare and contrast plant breeding with genetic engineering.

Mineral concentration in edible plant tissues varies greatly between plant taxa, species, families growing in the same environment. By the use of modern molecular techniques genetically modified plants can be developed which will result in more Zn and Fe uptake and accumulation in edible plant parts.

Improving Micronutrient Efficiency and Resistance to Root Diseases

Breeding for enhanced micronutrient efficiency can also confer resistance to root diseases. Micronutrient deficiency significantly increases the susceptibility to diseases, most often fungal diseases of major food crops.

Understanding the regulation and expression of genes for Zn and Fe homeostasis is beneficial for the development of varieties for enhanced Zn and Fe uptake and utilization to improve the quality and quantity of crop plants.


Recent advancement in genetic engineering and plant breeding, genetic engineering in agriculture, and genetic engineering in food has studied the absorption and translocation of mineral elements into edible plant parts. However, there is a significant gap to understand the mineral transportation and allocation to edible plant portions. Even numerous genetic engineering companies are also trying their best to solve the food security problems on a sustainable basis.

Despite the various efforts by different organizations the potential of crop biofortification is not yet achieved. So precisely controlled studies are required to get success in this perspective. An integrated approach can tackle the malnutrition problem by the development of biofortified food crops.


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