Scientists are creating a “super potato”, fortified with iron and zinc, in a bid to tackle malnutrition in developing countries, reports The Telegraph.
According to the report, millions of people around the world suffer micronutrient deficiencies – a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to stunting in children, who then go on to suffer cognitive delays, weakened immunity and disease. Pregnant women who lack micronutrients are more likely to have babies with defects or low birthweight.
According to Dr Oscar Ortiz, director of the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru, “potato already has proteins, iron, zinc and vitamin C and it is also an extremely good source of fibre. It’s a well balanced food if consumed boiled or baked. But we can make it even better.”
Work on biofortification of the potato began in 2004 and researchers identified 16 native Andean varieties with high levels of iron, zinc and vitamin C and then spent more than a decade crossing these types with each other to produce varieties with even higher levels of micronutrients.
These were then crossed with other types of potato with high yields and good resistance to disease such as blight. These varieties have 40 to 80 per cent more iron than types currently grown in the Andes.
Now these potatoes are being tested to see if they grow in other parts of the world: clones are being grown in Rwanda and Kenya and will soon be introduced to Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.