Iodine deficiency is a major threat to the health and development of the world, predominantly among toddlers and pregnant women in low-income countries. It is a significant public health problem in 130 countries and affects 740 million people. An estimated one-third of the world's population is currently susceptible to the risk of iodine deficiency. Iodine is a vital nutrient for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which regulates growth and metabolism. Iodine deficiency is the primary cause of preventable learning disabilities and brain damage, with it's most devastating impact on the brain of a developing fetus. Children born to iodine deficient mothers can suffer from cretinism (severe physical and mental retardation), speech defects, deafness and dwarfism. Iodine deficiency also increases the chance of abortions and stillbirth. A goiter, distinguished by a swelling at the front of the neck, is a prevalent symptom of iodine deficiency. A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, which swells in an effort to extract the little iodine that is in the blood. The least visible, but most pervasive, consequence of iodine deficiency is the loss of intellectual potential, children may lose between 10 and 15 intelligence quotient (IQ) points. Populations more prone to suffer from iodine deficiencies include those living in remote mountainous regions lacking common food sources of iodine such as fish or seaweed, and those in areas of frequent flooding where micronutrients are washed from the soil. The amount of iodine a person needs is quite small, in fact a person only needs to consume about one teaspoon full in a life time. The seemingly small requirement is often hard to ensure for two reasons. First, iodine does not stay in the body's system. The second problem is how to get iodine into the daily diets of people world wide.
The ideal solution would be to genetically modify foods. A great deal of what we eat does not naturally contain iodine. This is