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Biofortification: Combat World Hunger Crisis by breeding nutrient-packed Crops that will fill Stomachs and lessen Effects of Malnutrition

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Scientists are creating seeds with more nutrients to help fight world hunger. HarvestPlus, a Washington-based nonprofit, has been fortifying sees with vital nutrients since 2003. VOA
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Scientists are helping to combat the world hunger crisis by breeding nutrient-packed crops that will fill stomachs and lessen the effects of malnutrition.

It’s called biofortification.

It sounds complicated, but the concept is simple: create smarter seeds that grow into more nutrient-dense staple crops than regular ones. Then distribute the seeds on a large scale to farmers in developing countries, so they can grow crops that are more nutritious.

Seeds with more nutrients

This is what researchers at HarvestPlus, a Washington-based nonprofit, have been doing on a large scale since 2003, feeding an estimated 20 million people in 30 countries.

Their biofortified seeds pack one or more vital nutrients, such as iron, zinc and Vitamin A, said Bev Postma, HarvestPlus’ CEO.

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“It’s very important that the seeds are not just high in nutrition, but that they are still high-yielding, they are pest resistant, they are climate resistant — because these are the things a farmer still wants more,” she said.

Deficiencies of these nutrients can leave people more vulnerable to illness and infections, and in extreme cases cause blindness and stunt growth. Children are especially affected.

The organization’s research has found that many of these effects can be reversed in a matter of months once nutrient-packed foods are introduced into the local diet.

150 varieties of 12 staples

HarvestPlus scientists have produced 150 varieties of 12 staple foods, including corn, beans, rice, lentils and wheat.

In 2003, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the organization a $25 million grant over four years to help them scale up. This year, they are one of eight finalists for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which could help them realize their goal of reaching 1 billion people with biofortified crops by 2030.

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“We’re not trying to change behavior, we are looking to see what people are eating and we are just switching out to make that food more nutritious,” Postma said.

Biofortified seeds are produced in a traditional manner, and they are not genetically modified.

Seed distribution

The seeds are distributed through seed companies and sometimes directly to farmers.

“We’ve learned that in some countries, if we give the seed away, we can encourage the farmers to not just grow this new variety, but then ask them to give the next year’s seed that they harvest to four new farmers,” Postma said.

In other instances, she said, they work with seed companies to persuade them to adopt biofortified seeds and sell them as part of a package of options to farmers.

“We find in some instances it is better if farmers are paying for these seeds, because then there is a perceived value and adoption is higher,” she said. Postma said they try to make sure that their seeds are not more expensive than regular varieties.

The organization works with government agriculture and health ministries in developing countries to encourage them to adopt biofortified seeds as a cost-effective way to solve some of their major health problems. (IANS)

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Milky Way’s neighbouring galaxy is of same size, not bigger

With Andromeda no longer considered the Milky Way's big brother

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UFO religion as a concept is now becoming a part of popular understanding.
Countless galaxies exist in the universe, each hiding secrets that humankind is yet to unearth. Pixabay
  • Astronomers discover that the other galaxy nearest to us is the same size as ours
  • The name of the other galaxy is Andromeda
  • It is heavier than sun but the same size as Milky Way

In what could put a galactic arms race to rest, astronomers have discovered that our nearest big neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, is roughly the same size as the Milky Way.

It had been thought that Andromeda was two to three times the size of the Milky Way, and that our own galaxy would ultimately be engulfed by our bigger neighbour.

Galaxy nearest to Milky Way is not larger than it. VOA
Galaxy nearest to Milky Way is not larger than it. VOA

But the new study, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, evens the score between the two galaxies.

It found the weight of the Andromeda is 800 billion times heavier than the Sun, on par with the Milky Way.

The research suggests scientists previously overestimated the amount of dark matter in the Andromeda galaxy.

Also Read: Planets Beyond Milky Way Galaxy Discovered For First Time

“We had thought there was one biggest galaxy and our own Milky Way was slightly smaller but that scenario has now completely changed,” said Prajwal Kafle from the University of Western Australia.

“By examining the orbits of high speed stars, we discovered that this galaxy has far less dark matter than previously thought, and only a third of that uncovered in previous observations,” he said.

Andromeda  is heavier than sun. VOA
Andromeda is heavier than sun. VOA

The study used a new technique to measure the speed required to escape a galaxy.

“When a rocket is launched into space, it is thrown out with a speed of 11 km per second to overcome the Earth’s gravitational pull,” he said.

“Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is over a trillion times heavier than our tiny planet Earth so to escape its gravitational pull we have to launch with a speed of 550km/s,” Kafle said.

Andromeda is same size as the Milky way galaxy. Wikimedia Commons
Andromeda is same size as the Milky way galaxy. Wikimedia Commons

“We used this technique to tie down the mass of Andromeda,” he added.

The Milky Way and Andromeda are two giant spiral galaxies in our local Universe, and light takes a cosmologically tiny two million years to get between them.

With Andromeda no longer considered the Milky Way’s big brother, new simulations are needed to find out what will happen when the two galaxies eventually collide, suggests the study.