Large parts of the world’s agricultural soils are deficient in minerals such as zinc, limiting food and feed production and leading to nutrient deficiency diseases in humans and livestock. Every year, an estimated 800,000 people die from zinc deficiency diseases, primarily in developing companies, according to the International Zinc Association (IZA), a non-profit organization with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

The association is big on communicating the health problems that occur to people who have diets of produce and grains that are grown in zinc deficient soil. The European-based association is quick to contend that lack of zinc, that can readily be taken up by crop plants, is not isolated to a few areas but is a global problem.

In its most recent newsletter, IZA singled out Bangladesh as being number one, or the worst example of zinc deficiency in Asia. Bangladesh ranks number one in percentage of population at risk for zinc deficiency at 54.8 percent of the population. Other bullet points about zinc deficiency and the country’s situation are as follows:

• Bangladesh is also number one in prevalence of stunting in the population at 50.4 percent—stunting is an obvious affect of zinc deficient diets.

• Of the soils in Bangladesh, 93 percent have some level of zinc deficiency—a third of the soils are highly zinc deficient.

• Zinc-deficient soils mainly affect rice and wheat. Some studies in Bangladesh revealed the possibility of low concentrations of zinc in a wide range of foods and feed: fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, grasses and fodder crops.

• IZA currently has a joint project underway in Bangladesh with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) to test and scale-up use of new zinc core-urea technology in fertilizers to improve zinc uptake in crops.