To explore the ethical considerations relevant to planning and implementing strategies that incorporate biofortified crops as a means for improving micronutrient deficiencies. Particular interest was given to the risks posed to women and traditional food systems of rural communities.
Using a validated ethics framework for public health, we assessed the considerations needed to adopt biofortification strategies as a means for improving nutrient status. The use of this framework is not intended to answer all the questions that may arise as the field of biofortification is still evolving and building the evidence is still in progress.
Although often seen as a cost-effective strategy, micronutrient-enhancing staple crops for a specific population raises ethical concerns, which we evaluated. The results are structured under the questions in the six-step ethics framework we adopted. Elements that were evaluated include: the assumptions that are made for this type of intervention to achieve its goals, the known potential burdens, assessing if the burdens can be minimized, and ideas for fair implementation.
The framework used is meant to be a tool to help public health practitioners and policymakers consider the ethical dimensions of such programs and reveal where the benefits and burdens may lie. By shedding light on the ethical issues of biofortified food crops as one specific intervention example, we hope to offer insight to approaches that forge a future for micronutrients in public health policies and programs.