Regina Birner
International Food Policy Research Institute
Sanibé Abel Kone
National Programme for Citizenship Education (PNEC)
Nicolas Linacre
Independent Consultant
Danielle Resnick
Cornell University

Micronutrient deficiencies, especially deficiencies of Vitamin A, iron, and zinc, are widespread in Burkina Faso and Mali and contribute to high mortality rates. Biofortification of the major food staple crops consumed in these countries has considerable potential to increase the micronutrient status of vulnerable populations if the challenges of seed distribution can be overcome. This article examines the political landscape for the introduction of biofortified crops, including those developed through genetic engineering. Based on the experience with current strategies of food fortification, it is shown that the political environment for biofortified crops developed through conventional breeding is highly favorable. Analyzing the current state of biosafety legislation and the political debates regarding genetically modified (GM) crops in the region, where the current focus is on Bt cotton, this study concludes that the political environment for introducing GM biofortified food crops is at present not conducive. Strategies that prioritize the introduction of GM crops may jeopardize the favorable environment to welcome non-GM biofortified crops.

Key words: Biofortification, genetically modified crops, micronutrient deficiencies, Burkina Faso, Mali.