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Create a Full Range of Optimal, Bioavailable Nutrients in a Single Staple Plant Species



In the developing world, people often eat a diet with limited variety, consisting of a single staple crop that is poor in nutritional content.  Recent developments in molecular biology and genetics have created an opportunity to develop modified plant varieties with specifically desired characteristics.  However, most of the modifications confer only a single new, desirable trait; moreover, even when crops have been fortified for the diet of one region, the variety may not be ecologically adjusted to or traditionally consumed in other regions.


We currently lack a strategy for the effective, efficient, and socially and culturally acceptable alteration of a major dietary staple, to achieve the delivery of multiple micronutrients, such as minerals and vitamins, to poor populations in a single food.  Moreover, genetic changes could ensure higher protein content and the presence of essential amino acids.


To use transgenesis, biochemistry, selective breeding of plants, and other appropriate technologies such as apomixes, to provide combinations of micronutrients, vitamins, and essential amino acids in a bioavailable form in local crops, such as rice, wheat, sorghum, millets, cassava, potatoes, maize, bananas and others, or to enhance energy density and improve protein quality in such foods, in a socially and culturally acceptable way.

Potential Benefits

  • Reduction of morbidity and mortality from malnutrition
  • Amelioration of related susceptibility to infections and other diseases

Priority Areas

  • Fe, Zn, and Se deficiencies
  • Vitamin A and E deficiencies
  • Protein deficiency

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.