ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Antidote to Hidden Hunger


This is a response to the editorial “The Scourge of Hunger and Malnutrition” (EPW, 9 November 2019). A dip in India’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has rightly created a stir in the country. The continued focus on calories and the ignorance of nutritional aspects of food are responsible for the distressed state of the food and nutrition system in our country. Three out of four indicators used by the GHI in ranking countries dealt with nutrition. These indicators went beyond just stomach-filling or meeting calories’ requirements. The real problem is malnutrition and not a lack of food. Removing “hidden hunger” and not just “hunger” is the mantra.

What options do we have? First, food-supplements such as micronutrient rich capsules or food products fortified during the processing appear to be the fastest solution. However, besides the low purchasing power of the poor, constraints like lack of adequate resources, better infrastructure, efficient technology, and a reliable distribution system make it an unattainable option. The second option could be the implementation of efficient information, education, and a communication programme motivating consumers to change their food habits in favour of nutrient-rich foods. Again, this is a costly and time-consuming option, which makes it infeasible. Third, consumption of diversified diets may appear to be a sustainable option to control malnutrition, but this does not seem to be a possible option in the short term as it will require a change in food habits and food preferences of the people.

Biofortification, an agriculture-based approach of development and dissemination of micronutrient-enhanced staple crop varieties, offers a viable option of mitigating malnutrition and hidden hunger. Unlike the above-listed options that demand considerable time and resources, biofortification is simple and economical. It mainly targets the poor and rural households where home production and consumption of staple food crops are significant, and the use of the marketed surplus is most likely to remain within the community. Enriching staple crops with required micronutrients reduces people’s nutritional vulnerability also because, during economic shocks, the poor tend to reduce their consumption of higher-value food commodities that are naturally rich in micronutrients.

The GHI ranking has reminded us that the need of the hour is to go beyond “for survival” and provide “food security” in the real sense. Biofortification does offer a reasonable option. Let us give it a try to fight hunger, including “hidden hunger.”

Niraj Kumar


Updated On : 22nd Nov, 2019


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