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Sorghum Not Only Drought Resistant, Could Help Prevent Blindness

Up to half a million children around the world are going blind every year due to a lack of Vitamin A in their diets. According to the World Health Organization, Vitamin A deficiency, — which afflicts 250 million children worldwide — is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. It is a public health problem in more than half the world’s nations, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia, affecting young children and pregnant women in low-income countries the hardest.

In Kenya, scientists are tackling this problem by developing biofortified sorghum, a staple crop that has been genetically modified to contain higher levels of Vitamin A. More than 300 million sub-Saharan Africans depend on sorghum as their primary calorie source. Its drought- and heat-tolerant properties mean it is a vital crop in drought-prone countries, where irrigation is not always accessible or affordable. Improving the nutritional level of staple crops can provide both food and nutritional security.

The Africa Biofortified Sorghum, or ABS, project is a public-private partnership established to tackle chronic Vitamin A deficiency in children, as well as improve levels of zinc and iron. If it gets commercial approval, it will be the first-ever biotech sorghum on the market. Like Golden Rice, biofortified sorghum is a cutting-edge approach to food security and quality.

Daniel Guerrero

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