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Abstract

Biofortification, or the genetic improvement of the nutritional quality of food crops, is a promising strategy to combat undernutrition, particularly among the rural poor in developing countries. However, traditional methods of impact assessment do not apply to biofortified crops as little or no yield increases are expected. Significant progress has been made to develop maize varieties with improved protein quality, collectively known as quality protein maize (QPM). Evidence for the impact of QPM at the community level, as demonstrated by randomized, controlled studies, was evaluated using meta-analysis. A new and generalizable effect size was proposed to quantify the impact of QPM on a key outcome, child growth. The results indicated that consumption of QPM instead of conventional maize leads to an 8% (95% CI: 4-12%) increase in the rate of growth in height and a 9% (95% CI: 4-12%) increase in the rate of growth in weight in infants and young children with mild to moderate undernutrition from populations in which maize is a significant part of the diet. These results are the first step in evaluating the potential economic impact of QPM by establishing and quantifying a link between use of the improved crop and nutritional outcomes. QPM can serve as a model for other biofortification efforts, and in particular, the conceptual framework and methodologies for impact assessment are directly applicable to other biofortified crops.

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