A golden era—pro-vitamin A enhancement in diverse crops
Twyman, Richard M.
Sanahuja Solsona, Georgina
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Numerous crops have been bred or engineered to increase carotenoid levels in an effort to develop novel strategies that address vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. The pioneering work in rice (not covered in this review) has been followed up in many additional crops, some of which are staples like rice whereas others are luxury products whose impact on food security is likely to be marginal. This review surveys the progress that has been made in carotenoid breeding and metabolic engineering, focusing on β-carotene enhancement in crops other than rice. We ask if these efforts have the potential to address vitamin A deficiency in developing countries by comparing bioavailable pro-vitamin A levels in wild type and enhanced crops to determine whether nutritional requirements can be met without the consumption of unrealistic amounts of food. The potential impact of carotenoid enhancement should therefore be judged against benchmarks that include the importance of particular crops in terms of global food security, the amount of bioavailable β-carotene, and the amount of food that must be consumed to achieve the reference daily intake of vitamin A.