Economics of enhanced micronutrient density in food staples uri icon


  • A significant percentage of the soils in which these staple foods are grown are 'deficient' in these micronutrient metals, which has kept crop yields low. In general, these soils in fact contain relatively high total amounts of micronutrient metals. However, because of binding to soil constituents, these nutrients have poor soil availability to staple crop varieties that are currently available to farmers.
  • Adoption and spread of nutritionally-improved varieties by farmers can rely on profit incentives, either because of agronomic advantages on trace mineral-deficient soils or incorporation of nutritional improvements in the most productive varieties being released by agricultural research stations.
  • Because staple foods are eaten in large quantities every day by the malnourished poor, delivery of enriched staple feuds (fortified by the plants themselves during growth) can rely on existing consumer behavior.
  • Benefits from breeding advances, derived from initial, fixed costs, typically do not involve high recurring costs, and thus tend to be highly sustainable as long as an effective domestic agricultural research infrastructure is maintained. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
  • Benefits to relatively small investments in agricultural research may be disseminated widely, potentially accruing to hundreds of millions of people and millions of hectares of cropland.
  • Rates of micronutrient malnutrition are high in developing countries, as are the consequent costs to human welfare and economic productivity.
  • The combining of benefits for human nutrition and agricultural productivity, resulting from breeding staple food crops which are more efficient in the micronutrient metal uptake from the soil, and which accumulate more micronutrients into their seeds, results in extremely high ex ante estimates of benefit/costs ratios for investments in agricultural research in this area. This finding derives from the confluence of several complementary factors:

publication date

  • 1999
  • 1999
  • 1999