Biotechnology, biofortification and healthy diets: food systems’ interventions for enhanced nutrition

In this new Plant B+B Online Cafe, we will be featuring the scientific views of Prof Dr Dominique Van Der Straeten, Prof Dr Hans De Steur and Prof Dr Carl Lachat (UGent). Our invited speakers will present their findings on how biotechnology is essential towards crops’ biofortification and the socio-economic determinants for adopting biofortified varieties. Furthermore, we shall discuss how scientists canvpromote biofortified crops and what strategies are best to integrate biofortification into broader food system interventions for healthy diets.

Prof Dr Dominique Van Der Straeten is a senior full professor at Ghent University and the Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology Laboratory Director.
She conducted pre-doctoral research at the University of Reading (UK) under the supervision of Prof. J.B. Harborne through a British Council Fellowship. She was an FWO PhD fellowship awardee for her work on ethylene biosynthesis in plants at Harvard University under Prof. H.M. Goodman’s guidance and Prof M.
Van Montagu in Ghent University. As a post-doctoral scientist, she focused her line of research on remote imaging of plant stress. In this context, she performed a short post-doctoral stay at the University of Utrecht (NL) with Prof. H. Lambers. While being a fundamental scientist at heart, she initiated research on biofortification of crop plants, driven by the aspiration to contribute more directly to society.

Prof Dr Hans De Steur is a professor in quantitative research methods in socio-economics at the Division of Agri-food Marketing & Chain Management, Department of Agricultural Economics, Ghent University. He holds a master degree in sociology and economics and Business Administration (both at Ghent University). In 2011, he successfully finished his PhD in Applied Biological Sciences, which focused on transgenic biofortification’s market potential. His current research focuses on agri-food marketing and agricultural economics, focusing on consumer, stakeholder and impacts analysis of innovations and technologies. His multidisciplinary research approach entails both experimental and secondary data analysis. He is involved in various research projects on GM’s socio-economics (biofortified) foods, with multiple publications in top-tier journals in different research domains, reflecting his interest in cross-cutting issues and multidisciplinary collaboration

Prof Dr Carl Lachat is an Associate Professor at the Department of Food Technology, Safety and Health at Ghent University Belgium. He lectures courses in food and nutrition policies, nutritional epidemiology, planning and project design and nutrition-sensitive interventions. 

His primary interest is to develop practical approaches to enhance the nutritional status of vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries. These approaches are evaluated using both intervention and observational study designs, guided by a rigorous assessment of evidence and systematic reviews. In addition to empirical research, he actively develops new knowledge concerning collection, management and integration of food intake data and ways to increase the quality of nutrition research and capacity for better policies and practices. He is part of the FAO Technical Advisory Group for the Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women, the WHO/UNICEF Technical Expert Advisory Group on Nutrition Monitoring and the Nutrition Research Facility of the European Commission International Partnerships.