Biofortified Potatoes in South America


    Evaluating iron and zinc bioavailability from biofortified potatoes to reduce malnutrition in the Andean highlands: symposium in Andean highlands (ref. FF0419-11; 2019-2020).



    I​​​​​​ron and zinc deficiencies are the most common micronutrient deficiencies worldwide and disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable populations in resource-limited settings, negatively impacting upon health, child development and economic activity. 

    While the development of staple crops which have been biofortified with iron and zinc is a cost-effective strategy to ameliorate iron and zinc deficiencies, there have been relatively few studies to quantify whether the enhanced levels of iron and zinc in these biofortified crops is effectively absorbed by humans following consumption.

    This symposium is supporting the current research undertaken on this subject through the GCRF project ref. BB/S014039/1.


    Objectives and activities: 

    To determine the bioavailability of iron and zinc in biofortified potatoes as compared to a non-fortified local variety through human dietary intervention studies. Potatoes are labelled with stable isotopes of iron or zinc, and % absorption is measured from blood and urine samples by collaborators at ETH Zurich. These studies are technically challenging, but of the utmost importance for the success of biofortification strategies.


    Peruvian women examine different varieties of biofortified potatoes.


    Two international symposia are taking place in April 2020 in Peru i) in Huancavelica, an isolated city in the Andean highlands, to provide information about iron deficiency and the relevance of the studies that are being undertaken there, with an audience of around 700 university students; ii) in Lima to increase engagement in this project of the local government officials, funding bodies and other organisations, e.g. an NGO that works with the International Potato Centre (CIP, Yanapay, Peru), and the Institute of Nutritional Research (Lima, Peru); and iii) to strengthen the bond between institutions in Huancavelica and Lima, particularly among the people involved with this crop (CIP, farmers, health professionals and the local community).

    We are also estimating the effect of improving the nutritional status of Peruvians in terms of Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY), and calculating the dietary iron absorption from the Peruvian diet, which can be used by the World Health Organisation or The Food and Agriculture Organisation to set country-specific dietary reference values. Ultimately, a major goal of CIP is to introduce their biofortified potatoes (produced over the last few years) to farmers in parts of Africa where potatoes are widely consumed, so there will be a global effect beyond the Andean highlands.


    SDG/target addressed:

    good health and well-being

    SDG 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages


    Susan Fairweather-Tait, Professor, Norwich Medical School.