UGANDA RADIO NETWORK: Experts Urge Bio-fortification To Address Health Problems

UGANDA RADIO NETWORK: Experts Urge Bio-fortification To Address Health Problems
29 April 2024

Agricultural experts are urgently calling for immediate action in Eastern and Central Africa to address the detrimental effects of consuming micronutrient-deficient foods, which is leading to stunted growth and low immunity among infants and young people. Dr. Wellington Mulinge, Director of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), emphasized this during a meeting where Kenya's Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Franklin Mithika Linturi, familiarized himself with the operations of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).

Dr. Mulinge highlighted Africa's poor performance compared to other regions, suggesting that addressing the problem requires ensuring the population consumes nutrient-rich foods. However, poverty often leads to a trade-off between food quantity and quality, with lacking nutrients like vitamins and iron being unaffordable for many. Dr. Mulinge proposed food fortification as a solution, either through industrial means or biologically, with a focus on bio-fortification through genetic engineering of food crops to enhance their nutrient content. Despite challenges such as lack of government policy and opposition from civil society groups, Dr. Mulinge emphasized the importance of learning from South America and advocating for a favorable bio-fortification framework in Africa. ASARECA Executive Director, Enock Warinda, suggested dropping the term "GMO" to reduce resistance and emphasized the need for regional cooperation to promote bio-fortification.

Cabinet Secretary Linturi pledged support for ASARECA's efforts, including bio-fortification, as part of the organization's flagship programs aimed at addressing nutrition and food insecurity in the region. Julian Barungi, ASARECA's Program Officer for Policy, urged Linturi to prioritize ASARECA's role in technical matters and foster collaboration with sub-regional economic blocs to ensure harmonized working relationships. ASARECA, comprising fifteen countries in the region, promotes scientific research for food safety, security, and sustainability in collaboration with member governments, farmers, and development partners, although financial support from member states remains a challenge.

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