Despite significant advances in crop breeding, malnutrition remains a crisis of global proportions. One promising way to address this is to engineer crops that are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. The BIOFORCE (Simultaneous multi-pathway engineering in crop plants through combinatorial genetic transformation: Creating nutritionally biofortified cereal grains for food security) project aimed to create cereal crops such as rice and corn that are engineered to provide as many micronutrients as possible. The researchers used metabolic genetic engineering techniques to introduce the genes required, and then employed traditional screening methods to pick the best plants for further trials. Researchers managed to create a corn variety with high levels of pro-vitamin A and vitamin E, vitamin B9 and vitamin C. They also created rice and corn varieties with high concentrations of essential minerals like iron, zinc, selenium and calcium, and incorporated insect resistance genes as well. Other varieties incorporate important dietary compounds like zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene. Many of these compounds help to fight eyesight problems. BIOFORCE completed field trials of some of these varieties in Spain and the United States. Tests with animal subjects showed that the crops are safe to eat, and are non-toxic and non-allergenic. The achievements of BIOFORCE reveal that it is within our reach to engineer a solution to malnutrition around the world. If these crops are approved for commercial use, they will herald a revolution in global food security.
Multivitamin, malnutrition, corn, bio-fortified, BIOFORCE, food security, genetic engineering