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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.
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