The contribution of transgenic plants to better health through improved nutrition: opportunities and constraints
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Malnutrition is a prevalent and entrenched global socioeconomic challenge that reflects the combined impact of poverty, poor access to food, inefficient food distribution infrastructure, and an over-reliance on subsistence mono-agriculture. The dependence on staple cereals lacking many essential nutrients means that malnutrition is endemic in developing countries. Most individuals lack diverse diets and are therefore exposed to nutrient deficiencies. Plant biotechnology could play a major role in combating malnutrition through the engineering of nutritionally enhanced crops. In this article, we discuss different approaches that can enhance the nutritional content of staple crops by genetic engineering (GE) as well as the functionality and safety assessments required before nutritionally enhanced GE crops can be deployed in the field. We also consider major constraints that hinder the adoption of GE technology at different levels and suggest policies that could be adopted to accelerate the deployment of nutritionally enhanced GE crops within a multicomponent strategy to combat malnutrition.