Supercrops: Britain pledges large-scale funding to boost health of undernourished people in Africa

The Government is giving £30 million to
HarvestPlus - an international research programme which creates nutrient-rich
crops

Britain is to spend tens of millions introducing ‘supercrops’ to boost the health of millions of undernourished people in Africa and Asia, in a controversial move that campaigners have branded a “techno-fix” which ignores the root causes of food poverty.

The Government is giving £30 million to HarvestPlus - an international research programme which creates nutrient-rich crops - to develop and deliver vitamin and mineral enriched varieties of cassava, maize, beans, millet, rice and wheat to millions of farmers and their families.

The funding is part of an extra £375m in ‘core funding’ the Government has set aside to tackle world hunger between now and 2020 – during which time it aims to save the lives of 1.7 million children and drive down rates of malnutrition.

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide do not get enough nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc and iron, in their diets. This can lead to lower IQ, stunting, and blindness in children; increased susceptibility to disease, and higher health risks to mothers, and their infants, during childbirth.

And the investment in supercrops reflects the Government’s intention of ‘doing development differently’. Speaking at an international “nutrition summit” in London recently Prime Minister David Cameron described how the role of science is “about harnessing the power of innovation to develop better seeds and more nutritious and productive crops.”

The six new varieties of staple crops will be distributed to 3.8m farmers and their families by 2015. They have been created through selective breeding of strains with naturally higher levels of certain vitamins and minerals. The crops include vitamin A-rich cassava and maize, and iron-rich beans – targeted at the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zambia. And iron-rich pearl millet and zinc-rich wheat and rice are aimed at India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The nutrient-loaded crops will contain between 30 and 50 per cent of the average daily requirement for vitamin A, zinc and iron.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “In much of the developing world it is not just a lack of food that can cause disease and suffering, but also a lack of vitamins and nutrients. Malnutrition is the world’s biggest underlying cause of child deaths and is holding back economic growth across the globe.”

She added: “These superfoods are a fantastic way to get vital nutrients into meals that the world’s most vulnerable people eat every day without them changing their eating habits.”

The new approach is a radical departure from the traditional way of dealing with undernourished people by doling out vitamin and mineral pills or fortified foods.

But last night the World Development Movement (WDM) dubbed the move a “techno-fix” which would “do nothing to address the root causes of poverty and inequality, which are political.” WDM spokeswoman Miriam Ross added: “David Cameron would have us believe that business and science are the answers to global hunger, but this ignores the implications of unpayable debt, unfair global trade rules and the increasing concentration of power in the hands of corporations at the expense of the poor.”

And Vicki Hird, senior food campaigner, Friends of the Earth, cautioned: “Enhancing staple crops could help if farmers can afford them and can save the seeds. But sorting out food security will require far more - such as tackling our overconsumption, ending biofuel targets and supporting small scale, farmer-led initiatives.”

The new supercrops

Yellow cassava – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria

Normally white, the flesh of the cassava plant is now yellow - a consequence of a massive boost in vitamin A. Provides 50 per cent of the daily requirement.

 

Orange corn (maize) - Zambia

More than half of children suffer from vitamin A deficiency. The new variety of maize provides half [50 per cent] of the daily requirement.

 

Iron beans - Rwanda

In Rwanda, where beans are a lunchtime staple, more than a third of children suffer from anaemia due to a lack of iron in their diet. The new crop provides 30 per cent of the daily iron requirement.

 

Iron millet - India

More than 50 million people in India eat pearl millet every day. The new variety provides 30 per cent of the daily iron requirement.

 

Zinc rice – India & Bangladesh

The majority of poor people in Asia, where rice is the staple food, suffer from zinc deficiency. The rice provides 40 per cent of the daily requirement.

 

Zinc wheat – India & Pakistan

Wheat is the second most consumed cereal in Asia. The new crop provides 40 per cent of the daily zinc requirement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser