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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Improved Phytonutrient Content Through Plant Genetic Improvement

Authors
item Farnham, Mark
item Simon, Philipp
item Stommel, John

Submitted to: Nutrition Reviews
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 7, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The nutritional value of food crops is influenced by crop varieties and production and postharvest environments. Crop genetic improvement of key nutritional components is one way to improve overall nutrition for the consumer. A scientific meeting entitled "Food, Phytonutrients and Health: Workshops and Symposium" was held in College Park, Maryland in March of 1998. In one workshop, presentations and discussions focused o enhancing plant nutritional content through genetic improvement. Scientists with different expertise including plant genetics, plant physiology, food science, human nutrition and medicine discussed this topic. This paper summarizes the proceedings of that workshop and covers: current knowledge about genetic improvement of nutritional content in crops, information that is needed to move this research forward, barriers for conducting this research, priority research needs, and the role of government in future research. It concludes that successful development and use of nutritionally enriched crops will be stimulated by cooperative research among plant scientists, nutritionists, biochemists, and medical scientists. There is also a need to better educate the public on the benefits of foods with improved nutrition. This paper provides background information for scientists to improve crop nutritional content. It also stresses that research aimed at improving the nutritional value of crops will benefit American consumers by improving food quality that will lead to better health.   

Technical Abstract: During the twentieth century, plant breeding and genetics have improved the nutritive value of horticultural and agronomic crops. Significant strides have been made, especially in altering content of macro nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and oils in crop plants. Current research on improving phytonutrients content includes greater focus on study of and assignment of health-promoting properties to micro nutrients as well. Successful development and utilization of phytonutrients enriched crop plants will be bolstered by interdisciplinary collaborative research efforts, advances in analytical methodology and biotechnology, and public education of the potential benefits of phytonutrients enriched foods. There is great promise in this area of science that melds plant and related research disciplines, but there are also many challenges which will be encountered in genetically enhancing crop plants for improved phytonutrient content.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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