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Plant breeding for nutrition-sensitive agriculture: an appraisal of developments in plant breeding


Plant breeding for nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) has to address the various aspects of food and nutrition security by taking on an integrated approach. In our article, we summarize past and current developments in plant breeding that are relevant to nutrition in this broader context. We outline how plant breeding can contribute to availability of, access to and utilization of food, and give examples of how the concept of NSA is differently addressed in selected plant breeding projects. Effective targeting towards the needs of vulnerable groups seems to be a key success factor. Differences exist with regard to the underlying concept of technology diffusion, the importance given to agrobiodiversity for improving food and nutrition security, and the degree and quality of participation of target groups. We conclude that the potentials of crop and variety improvement for NSA are far from being tapped. Plant breeding for NSA requires that the inherent focus of most breeding programs on crops and varieties be broadened towards people and their needs. It is thus required to integrate complementary expertise into breeding programs, and to overcome the divide between technology-oriented and system or actor-oriented approaches. Furthermore, it should be acknowledged that commercial breeding needs to be complemented by other initiatives and institutions that focus particularly on food and nutrition security of vulnerable groups. Any efforts to further harmonize agricultural, nutrition, health, environmental, and educational policies, also with international policy frameworks and obligations, could help to create an enabling policy environment for NSA.

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Funding provided by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, for a comprehensive study on NSA, coordinated by the Food Security Center, University of Hohenheim, is gratefully acknowledged. We further thank for funding received for previous work on plant breeding and food security from the fiat panis Foundation, Ulm/Germany, and the EU Food Facility for WCA coordinated by IFAD, via the PROMISO 2 project, and the INSTAPA project via the EU 7th Framework program, the AnbeJigi project funded by the McKnight Foundation, and the HOPE project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Anja Christinck.

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Christinck, A., Weltzien, E. Plant breeding for nutrition-sensitive agriculture: an appraisal of developments in plant breeding. Food Sec. 5, 693–707 (2013).

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  • Plant breeding
  • Nutrition
  • Food security
  • Agrobiodiversity
  • Adaptation
  • Impact