Nourishing people: Helen Keller International

Helen Keller International (HKI) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) devoted to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition in the world. It grew from the legacy left by its famous founder.

Here’s what HKI says about its work to reduce malnutrition. HKI supports the 1,000 Days Movement whose focus is on the window of opportunity for nutrition, from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday.

HKI’s strategies to reduce malnutrition include these:

Vitamin A Supplementation
Homestead Food Production
Food Fortification

I’ll write a bit about the last of those, today, because it’s in the news. But we shouldn’t lose sight (pun intended) of the other strategies to prevent malnutrition.

Biofortification, to prevent Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and therefore to reduce the risk of blindness, is done by genetic modification (GM) also called genetic engineering (GE). Biofortification can involve Golden Rice as we’ve discussed here recently. Here’s the Golden Rice Project. Here’s a blogger asking whether Golden Rice is worth its risk. Plenty of people think no, it’s a bad idea. The Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) calls Golden Rice ‘An Exercise in How Not to Do Science’. BanGMfood goes right for the jugular, calling Golden Rice a ‘Dangerous Experiment’.

With such strong opinions on Golden Rice, it’s easy to forget that biofortification also can involve Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes. When I see news reports about this different GM crop, I’ll let you know.

[Edit] Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes aren’t always a GM crop. There are promising results from conventional breeding, and from including this vegetable in children’s diets. This deserves a blog post of its own. Coming here soon…

Meanwhile HKI continues to give kids Vitamin A drops, to fortify cooking oil and flour with Vitamin A, and to encourage mothers to grow food. Yes I do mean ‘mothers’. There are many male farmers but we in the rich world would do well to remember how many farmers around the world are women.

If you’re carrying a little bundle of joy in your belly or on your back, you might want to grow vegetables containing beta-carotene to help your children see in the dark. If you’re not a farmer, you might want to earn money so that you can buy nutritious food for the little ones.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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5 Responses to Nourishing people: Helen Keller International

  1. Pingback: Golden Rice – A Golden Opportunity or “Golden Lies”? | Science on the Land

  2. Pingback: Sweet potatoes to let you see in the dark | Science on the Land

  3. Pingback: Growing nutritious vegetables to empower women and feed families | Science on the Land

  4. Pingback: Celebrating carrots (even if they don’t give you night vision) | Science on the Land

  5. Pingback: Golden Rice trial is vandalised | Science on the Land

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