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Diets must become sustainable say FAO and BioversityImmediate action needed to improve health of humans and the planet
8 August 2012, Rome - Immediate action to promote sustainable diets and food biodiversity so as to improve the health of humans and of the planet is urged in a book just published by FAO and Bioversity International.
“Regardless of the many successes of agriculture in the last three decades, it is clear that food systems, and diets, are not sustainable,” says Barbara Burlingame, Principal Officer of FAO’s Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division, in a preface to the book, Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity.
“While over 900 million people in the world suffer from hunger, even more – about 1.5 billion – are overweight or obese, and an estimated two billion suffer from micronutrient malnutrition including vitamin A, iron, or iodine deficiency,” Burlingame notes.
The problem of feeding the world’s growing population has so far been seen largely in terms of providing sufficient quantities of food, the book points out. But the pace of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, coupled with emerging health issues related to diet, make it urgent to address the quality of agriculture and food systems. Poor diets are linked to marked increases in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases across the world.
High-input industrial agriculture and long-distance transport have made refined carbohydrates and fats affordable and available across the globe, leading to an overall simplification of diets and reliance on a limited number of energy-rich foods. But such foods lack nutrient quality and have heavy carbon and water footprints. Cheap, energy-dense foods have also come at the cost of flavour, diversity and cultural connection.
Currently just three major staples crops – corn, wheat and rice – provide 60 percent of the dietary energy from plant origin at global level, while, with rising incomes in developing economies, huge numbers of people are abandoning traditional plant-based foods in favour of diets rich in meat, dairy products, fats and sugar.
The book argues that modern diets and food production methods play a significant role in shrinking plant and animal genetic diversity, with 17,291 species out of 47,677 assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature described as threatened with extinction...
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