In the 1960s and ‘70s, there were massive famines in Africa and India and millions died from starvation. It created a huge incentive to increase the yield of crops. During the green revolution that followed certain crops with potential to produce very high yields were selected - wheat, rice, maize, etc. They are good crops. But not the only crops.
When people are starving to death, you’ve got to feed them calories. People who are malnourished need lots of energy. All those crops are full of carbohydrate, but no nutrition.
Now we face a new global food crisis - nutrition. We now have a whole generation that is energy rich, but micronutrient deficient - lacking iron, selenium and zinc. That affects brain development, childhood mortality and maternal health.
Malaysian people, for example, were malnourished 20 years ago; now they are obese because they eat the same junk food as North America and Europe. Obesity is a major public health issue, not just in Malaysia but worldwide. With obesity comes a hidden hunger epidemic. Micronutrients are not found in big crops, but they are contained in minor ones.
Instead of genetically manipulating big crops to biofortify them, let’s harness the nutritional value from small crop species before they disappear.