According to the official, the effort is also to improve India’s ranking on the Global Hunger Index where the low ranking for India is not because of low availability of food but for the low nutritional value of the existing crops that results in malnutrition in India’s newborn children and females.
“The nutrition content of most of our mass consumption crops is sub optimal. While India is self-sufficient in food crops, the challenge before the government is to increase the nutritional value to reduce cases of malnutrition and anaemia in the country,” the official added.
Biofortified seeds with higher iron content would produce red potatoes and red okra (bhindi) as well as different shades of banana with higher zinc content but such produce could be up to 10 times more expensive than the existing varieties in the market.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research, along with its 113 research institutes spread across India, are developing biofortified seeds for different crop varieties with focus on enhanced content of iron, zinc and other micronutrients while ensuring that the new seed varieties adapt to local climatic conditions.It expects to replace the entire seed stock for these crops in four-five years with new seeds being developed and distributed through government channels including the National Seeds Corporation.India slipped to 111 position out of 125 countries on the Global Hunger Index 2023 with a score of 28.7 on 100-point scale categorising India’s severity of hunger as ‘serious’ and no significant gains since 2015.
The government, however, had contested the data, calling it a “flawed measure of hunger that doesn’t reflect India’s true position”.
The GHI score is based on four indicators, including under-nourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality, that together capture the multi-dimensional nature of hunger.