When did you stop beating your wife? The micronutrient edition

by Jeremy Cherfas on November 11, 2010

Nicholas Kristof was at the Biofortification Conference, telling the audience How to Get Micronutrient Malnutrition on the Public Health Agenda.1 The organizers took the opportunity to capture the great man’s thoughts on video. And guess what? He thinks biofortification is more sustainable than supplements, even though, as he said:

Biofortification is in a sense unproven. We can’t be sure that these experiments in improving underlying foods are going to be scalable, that customers are going to accept them … there are things that can go wrong. But on the other hand, if you rely forever on drops or pills then that’s always going to cost money. It’s not sustainable in the same way. If you can get people to substitute the kind of rice they eat, the kind of bananas the eat, the kind of wheat they eat, then you’ve solved these nutrition problems that have been with us for all of human history. Is it going to work? We can’t be sure, but it’s a pretty good bet and it sure is exciting.

Absolutely spot on Nicholas. And given the two options your interviewer offered, I’d probably have answered in similar vein. But, er, did no one at the conference mention dietary diversity? Not even in the corridors where the video was filmed.

The value of dietary diversity is not unproven. People do eat diverse diets. And the approach is genuinely sustainable, quite apart from other benefits that come with increased agricultural biodiversity. It’s not a bet, it’s a racing certainty. And it is obviously being ignored by an influential sector of the community.

So, I’ve another topic for Mr Kristof and anyone else who cares to weigh in: How to get Dietary Diversity on the Solutions to Micronutrient Malnutrition Agenda.

  1. The usual suspects. []

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