A Path to Sustainable Nutrition 'Held

Webinar on “Biofortification: A Path to Sustainable Nutrition”

ASSOCHAM organized a webinar on October 1st, 2021 in cooperation with HarvestPlus & GAIN on the subject of Biofortification: A path to Sustainable Nutrition. A knowledge paper prepared by PwC on the subject of “Integrating nutrient-rich plants into the food system: A tool for change” was presented during the session by our main guest, Dr. SK Malhotra, Agriculture Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture and Peasant Welfare, Govt. released . from India.

The session focused on the importance of bio-enrichment in combating hidden hunger, raising awareness about bio-enriched plants, understanding the relationship between bio-enrichment and other methods of food fortification, and understanding the agricultural benefits of bio-enriched plants.

The welcome address and the context set were created by Vivek Chandra, Co-Chair, Food Processing Council, ASSOCHAM & CEO – Global Branded Business, LT Foods, and the opening session was attended by Dr. SK Malhotra, Agriculture Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Govt. from India, Vivek Arora, Executives, DR. Binu Cherian, Country Director, HarvestPlus, Ajay kakra, Managing Director, Agriculture and Natural Resources, PwC, Ravinder Grover, Program Manager, CBC-HarvestPlus and Ishank Michail Gorla, Program Director, CBC – GAIN.

Dr. Malhotra appreciated the efforts of ASSOCHAM in organizing the meeting. During his address, he said that food and nutrition security is at the core of a nation’s growth and can also be linked to income security. He aligned food security with the UN SDGs, which aim to eradicate malnutrition by 2030, but stressed that the path to achieve this goal is not yet clearly defined. Various strategies have been developed to overcome this stress of malnutrition and biofortification will provide nutrient-rich crops, which is the order of the day! He also mentioned that 2023 will be recognized as the International Year of Millet.

Vivek Arora welcomed all dignitaries at the opening session and began his address on the importance of micronutrients in the functioning of the human body. Recent studies have shown that these micronutrients are now being reduced for various reasons such as soil pollution, rising CO2 levels, etc. To replenish these micronutrients in food there is a fortification that started in 1953 with the fortification of Vanaspati in India.

In 2016, the FSSAI came up with the Ordinance on the Fortification of 5 Staple Foods to fill the nutrient gap in the country, including salt, milk, rice, oil and flour. He stressed that fortification is a complementary strategy that is simple, inexpensive, and beneficial to a large population. He mentioned the challenge that oil and milk have a more organized market compared to wheat flour, and that wheat itself is difficult to fortify compared to rice.

Publish the publication of the knowledge paper, Ajay kakra gave insight into the publication and mentioned the two main recommendations that focus on integrating farmer groups and farming communities and commercializing the bio-enriched crops and ways to strengthen them as these are very critical elements. The first recommendation is to integrate the farming groups and expand its use through political and other interventions so that it becomes mainstream from their perspective as well. The second recommendation related to the commercialization of the plants, which includes the adoption of the bio-enriched varieties by mainstream food processors and the ways in which these plants can go mainstream from the small village millers to large branded producers.

Ravinder Grover, HarvestPlus & Ishank Michail Gorla, GAIN gave a joint presentation on the Bio-Enriched Plant Commercialization Program. The presentation gave an insight into the global health crisis surrounding hidden hunger and Grover mentioned that especially low and middle income countries do not get enough essential vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) in their daily diet. This condition is known as hidden hunger. He explained why biofortification could be groundbreaking and how it can be a good approach to reaching the rural poor who rely heavily on locally produced staple foods as their main source of food. He stressed that biofortification stands out as a sustainable and cost-effective approach because once the initial development and dissemination is complete, the recurring costs of maintaining the production of bioenriched crops are low.

After the opening session, 2 technical sessions were on the agenda, focusing on improving the size and accessibility of bio-enriched plants and the commercialization of bio-enriched foods. DR. Binu Cherian, Country Director, HarvestPlus, and Bhuvaneswari Balasubramanian, Senior Technical Specialist – Knowledge Leadership, GAIN, moderated the two sessions.

We saw the presence of industry experts and very eminent speakers for both sessions that included Parikrama Chowdhry, Lead – Impact Evaluation and Partnerships, Syngenta Foundation, Milind P. Kulkarni, Senior Scientist (grain crops), Nirmal seeds, Prabhat Labh, CEO, Grameen Foundation in the first meeting and DR. Bhavna Sharma, Head of Nutritional Science, ITC Foods, Dr. Dinesh Chauhan, Vice President, DeHaat, Jenny Walton, Senior Specialist, Demand Creation and Business Development, HarvestPlus in the second session. At the end of the technical sessions, success stories from farmers who grow bio-enriched crops were also told.

The program was completed by Nirupama Sharma, Joint Director & HOD (Agri, Food Processing & FMCG), ASSOCHAM with the thank you.