14 October 2013, BBSRC, Global Food Security Blog, Esin Mete -- "Improved nutrition not only extends and improves people’s quality of lives but also plays a significant role in boosting their productivity and sustaining a healthy economy. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that malnutrition alone costs the global economy around $3.5 trillion dollars each year (around 5% of global GDP) due to lost productivity and healthcare costs.
One way my sector can help is to better understand the potential roles that fertilizers can play to tackle hunger and malnutrition. Evidence shows micronutrient fortification of fertilizers – that’s adding selenium, zinc or iodine to the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium usually present – can offer promising results, and not only in the developing world but in the developed world as well.
Micronutrient fortification of nutrient-deficient soils cannot only help boost crop yields but can also improve the content and bioavailability of these nutrients in plants when consumed by humans. In addition to the three ‘NPK’ macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) we add to soil in the form of artificial fertilizer or manure, there are 13 other macro and micronutrients needed by crops to grow.
The application of zinc fertilizers in Turkey also led to the eradication of zinc deficiency among local people. Since crops were able to absorb zinc from the soil, they also had more bioavailability of zinc for the humans who consumed them. There are other examples besides zinc. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Finland had one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world, partly due to low intakes of the nutrient selenium in people’s diets. From 1984, the Finnish government mandated the addition of selenium to all multi-nutrient fertilizers in order to help combat heart disease. The results have been profound, with human intake of selenium tripling by 1987 and rates of heart disease continuing to decline to relatively low levels today.
Similarly, in Xinjiang Province in the far west of China, potassium iodate has been added to irrigation canals in order to address iodine deficiencies in the local population. The result was a three-fold increase in soil iodine levels, a 50% reduction in infant mortality and an almost total elimination of iodine deficiency disorders in the area.
Lastly, micronutrient fertilization can also be an effective treatment against plant diseases. ..."