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9th December 2023 (9 Topics)

Ecological Impact of Biofortified Seeds

Context

As per the information by Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, ecological impacts of seed fortification must be considered seriously by the ecologist to understand the behaviour of its effect on humans. 

About

A Biofortification Milestone:

  • Agricultural innovation: India has made remarkable progress in agricultural innovation, with the development of 142 biofortified varieties since 2014.
  • Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR): Spearheaded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), these varieties are designed to enhance the nutritional content of crops without adverse effects on the environment.

Scope of Biofortification: Varied Crops and Categorized Impact

  • Diverse Crop Portfolio: The biofortification initiative covers 124 field crops and 18 horticultural crops, ranging from staple grains like rice, wheat, and maize to nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits.
  • Biofortified Crop Breakdown:
    • Field Crops: Rice (10), Wheat (43), Maize (20), Pearl Millet (11), Small Millets (13), and more.
    • Horticultural Crops: Sweet Potato (5), Amaranthus (3), Greater Yam (2), and more.

Environmental Impact: Sustainably Engineered Varieties

  • Ecological Neutrality: Biofortified varieties exhibit no discernible impact on soil and water conditions. These varieties are developed through traditional breeding methods, minimizing concerns about environmental repercussions.
  • Equivalent Nutrient and Water Requirements: Biofortified crops share similar water and nutrient requirements with traditional varieties, ensuring sustainable cultivation practices.

Yield and Affordability: The Economic Landscape

  • Yield Parity: All biofortified varieties match or surpass the yield of conventional counterparts. This ensures that farmers don't face a productivity penalty when opting for these nutritionally enhanced crops.
  • Affordable Production: Despite their enhanced nutritional value, biofortified crops are not more expensive than existing varieties in the market. The cultivation costs remain comparable, making them economically viable for farmers.

Seed Production and Distribution: Scaling Impact

  • Breeder Seed Production: A substantial 37,425.7 quintals of breeder seed for biofortified varieties have been produced since 2019-20.
  • Multiplication and Supply Chain: Public and private seed production agencies receive breeder seeds for downstream multiplication, ultimately leading to the distribution of certified seeds to farmers.
  • Coverage and Impact: Over 10 million hectares of agricultural land, spanning wheat, rice, pearl millet, mustard, and lentils, have been cultivated with biofortified varieties in the past six years.

National Food Security Mission (NFSM): A Catalyst

  • NFSM Interventions: The National Food Security Mission plays a pivotal role by supporting interventions like cluster demonstrations, cropping system enhancements, and distribution of High Yielding Varieties (HYVs)/ hybrids.
  • Technology Transfer: ICAR, State Agricultural Universities, and Krishi Vigyan Kendras receive support for technology transfer, ensuring that advancements reach farmers through demonstrations and frontline initiatives.
  • Encouraging Biofortification: NFSM actively promotes the production and distribution of biofortified seeds, aligning with its goal of enhancing food security and nutritional outcomes.

Way Forward: Nourishing the Nation, Sustainably

  • India's journey in biofortification stands as a beacon of progress in agricultural research and development.
  • By prioritizing nutritional enhancement without compromising on yield and affordability, the nation is paving the way for a sustainable and resilient future in agriculture.
  • The biofortification revolution is not only transforming crops but also nourishing the lives of millions across the country.

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