‘Future 50’ food items identified in new report

It also emphasises that food diversity across the world is being lost

By Meenakshi Sushma
Published: Friday 22 February 2019
Food diversity
Credit: Getty Images Credit: Getty Images

Fifty food items have been identified as ‘future food’ in a report released by German brand Knorr, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Adam Drewnowski, director of The Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington on February 20, 2019.

“Seventy-five per cent of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species. Just three (rice, maize and wheat) make up nearly 60 per cent of calories from plants in the entire human diet”, the report states.

Other important products among the 12 include palm, fruit, oil, potatoes, soybeans, sugar beets, sugar cane, and tomatoes.

The diversity on the plate and on farm lands globally has reduced as only these 12 crops are focused on in terms of cultivation. The cost of this has reflected on both, human health and environment. Since 1900, a staggering 75 per cent of the genetic plant diversity in agriculture has been lost, says the report.

Another recent research done by Adam R Martin, assistant professor, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences and The Centre for Critical Development Studies, University of Toronto, Scarborough, Canada, states that ‘large industrial-sized farms in Asia, Europe, North and South America looks very similar’. The author says that this is because all are focusing on commercial crops and soybeans, wheat, rice and corn are crops which cover over 50 per cent of the world's agricultural lands.

For the research, they used data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to look at which crops were grown where on large-scale industrial farmlands from 1961 to 2014. The study also found that regionally, the varieties are increasing but on a global scale, they have dipped after 1990.

These shifts have given rise to malnutrition. Children under five face multiple burdens: 150.8 million are stunted, 50.5 million are wasted and 38.3 million are overweight, states the 2018 global nutritional report.

Food sovereignty under stake

With current reduction in crop diversity, food sovereignty has become a big issue along with food security. Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

In Thailand, for example, the 16,000 varieties once cultivated, have dropped to just 37 varieties. In the past century, the United States has lost 80 per cent of its cabbage, pea and tomato varieties.

In India, over 80 to 100 different kinds of seasonal, wild, cultivated and uncultivated foods form a part of the regular diet, especially among tribal and Dalit communities. These continue to be strongly embedded in the local ecological and cultural context. Nutritional analyses of these diets shows that the foods can meet and counter malnutrition including micro-nutrient malnutrition such as Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD). The has been stated in the report “Exploring the Potential of Diversified Traditional Food Systems to Contribute to a Healthy Diet” authored by members of the Food Sovereignty Alliance (FSA), India, along with the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI).

The Future 50 foods have been recommended to overcome health issues by following sustainable farming methods. The criteria for choosing the 50 foods has been based on their high nutritional value, relative environmental impact, flavour, accessibility, acceptability and affordability.

The 50 have been divided into various category like algae, beans and pulses, cereals and grains, fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, root vegetables, sprouts and tubers.

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