Iron-Rich Pearl Millet against malnutrition

Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) is a staple food in resource-poor parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many kids raised on pearl millet, or whose mothers ate mostly pearl millet, don’t get enough iron to grow up healthy. Now here’s pearl millet biofortified with iron. It’s called Iron Rich Pearl Millet (IRPM).

IRPM was developed by selective breeding, without genetic modification (GM, also called genetic engineering or GE). Denis Okello at the International Food Policy Research Institute tells us about encouraging trials of IRPM in Benin and India.

Here’s the science. This biofortified food gave good results in the diets of women in Benin, West Africa and children in Karnataka, India.

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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4 Responses to Iron-Rich Pearl Millet against malnutrition

  1. I don’t think the problem is so much with the millet to begin with – it’s usually got more, and more available, iron than rice: it’s the lack of meat in the diet that’s the bigger issue. That’s not to detract from the potential benefits of iron-enrichment, just to defend millet’s credentials:)

    • argylesock says:

      You’re right, I think. But the lack of meat arises from poverty.

      One of Anastasia’s points, in her article that I linked to yesterday, is that when poor people get poorer (climate change, economic recession, war) they rely more on staple foods. Staples which aren’t sufficient to be a balanced diet without other foods including meat, other animal products and vegetables. When the deficiency is iron my first thought as a rich-world person is that people should eat red meat and green vegetables. But as Anastasia says, that’s not always possible if you live somewhere that doesn’t let you raise those foods and you don’t have the money or shops to buy those foods.

      That leads Anastasia to say that biofortified crops can be useful in a relatively short-term way. Not a permanent solution, but long enough to raise a few generations of people who aren’t blind or stunted. I’ll add that good, nutritious food is indeed part of a permanent solution. So if the biofortified versions of pearl millet, maize, cassava and sweet potato become popular in the places where they grow well, I hope they’ll go on being popular.

      Anastasia emphasises GM foods as part of a move towards biofortification. I’m thinking about whether that could ever be a good way forward. Whether, as she suggests, GM crop development could be in benign hands.

  2. Pingback: Seeking sustainable crops | Science on the Land

  3. Pingback: History of Pearl millet | Science on the Land

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