Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Meeting Report

Biofortification of UK food crops with selenium

Martin R. Broadleya1 c1 c2, Philip J. Whitea2 c1, Rosie J. Brysona3, Mark C. Meachama1, Helen C. Bowena2, Sarah E. Johnsona2, Malcolm J. Hawkesforda4, Steve P. McGratha4, Fang-Jie Zhaoa4, Neil Brewarda5, Miles Harrimana6 and Mark Tuckera6

a1 Plant Sciences Division, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK

a2 Warwick HRI, University of Warwick, Wellesbourne, Warwick CV35 9EF, UK

a3 Velcourt Ltd, NIAB Annex, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 OLE, UK

a4 Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK

a5 British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK

a6 Yara UK, Immingham Dock, Lincolnshire DN40 2NS, UK


Se is an essential element for animals. In man low dietary Se intakes are associated with health disorders including oxidative stress-related conditions, reduced fertility and immune functions and an increased risk of cancers. Although the reference nutrient intakes for adult females and males in the UK are 60 and 75 μg Se/d respectively, dietary Se intakes in the UK have declined from >60 μg Se/d in the 1970s to 35 μg Se/d in the 1990s, with a concomitant decline in human Se status. This decline in Se intake and status has been attributed primarily to the replacement of milling wheat having high levels of grain Se and grown on high-Se soils in North America with UK-sourced wheat having low levels of grain Se and grown on low-Se soils. An immediate solution to low dietary Se intake and status is to enrich UK-grown food crops using Se fertilisers (agronomic biofortification). Such a strategy has been adopted with success in Finland. It may also be possible to enrich food crops in the longer term by selecting or breeding crop varieties with enhanced Se-accumulation characteristics (genetic biofortification). The present paper will review the potential for biofortification of UK food crops with Se.


c1 * These authors contributed equally.

c2Corresponding author: Dr Martin Broadley, fax + 44 0115 951 6334, email