Punjab has introduced two bio-fortified wheat varieties to overcome zinc deficiency in the country affecting almost 18.6 percent of the population.
“We have introduced two wheat varieties, Zincol 2016 and Akbar 2019, for general cultivation with 64 percent higher zinc level than other cultivars without compromising on taste of the grain,” Agriculture Minister Syed Hussain Jahanian Gardezi said.
Zinc deficiency can lead to loss of appetite, stunted growth and an impaired immune function. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), zinc deficiency is one of the ten significant factors contributing to the burden of disease in developing countries.
Gardezi hoped that the new wheat varieties would help overcome this deficiency. He said all stakeholders would have to work together to eradicate malnutrition and assured the provincial government’s assistance for the purpose.
The project for developing iron and zinc rich wheat varieties had been undertaken in 2018.
Dr Javaid Ahmad, director at the Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI), Faisalabad, that developed the Akbar 2019 variety, told Dawn that since wheat flour is the staple food of Pakistanis, his institute had been given the task to develop wheat rich in zinc and iron.
He claimed that the cultivar also gives 200 kilograms per acre more yield than other common cultivars and said the enhanced level of zinc would have no effect on flavour or colour.
Addressing concerns about a vitamin or mineral overdose, Ahmad said that biofortified crops have already been introduced in 30 countries and that no health hazards have been reported because of their consumption.
He said the variety had been planted in many areas of Punjab in the last wheat season.
From : pk.mashable.com