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Mainstream agriculture vs wild and underutilized species for nutrition

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  • Mainstreamed agriculture versus wild and underutilized species and

    varieties for nutrition

    U. Ruth Charrondiere, PhD

    FAO, Rome

  • Global nutrition situation Double burden of malnutrition

    Undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are persisting. Obesity is endemic also in developing countries.

    Increased consumption of animal

    products (e.g. China and India) and of processed foods.

    Simplification of diets and shift

    towards westernized diets.

    Medicalized approach (fortification and supplementation) instead of a food-based approach using foods.

  • Astronauts diets

    NASA (America)

    Foods only

    no supplements except for vitamin D

    Is this achievable on earth?

  • Biodiversity and Nutrition What is biodiversity?

    1. inter-species biodiversity (in nutrition called diverse diets) i.e. eat many different foods

    2. Intra-species biodiversity (in nutrition called biodiversity) is adding a new dimension below species level

    varieties, cultivars and breeds

    but also wild, neglected and underutilized species (NUS)

    differences in nutrient content between species are as high as within species (up to 1000 times)

    difference between nutritional adequacy and inadequacy

    Reason for importance:

  • Differences in food composition Food Protein

    (g) Fibre

    (g) Iron (mg)

    Vitamin C (mg)

    -carotenes (mcg)

    Rice 5.6-14.6 0.7-6.4

    Cassava 0.7-6.4 0.9-1.5 0.9-2.5 25-34

  • Mainstreamed vs. underutilized foods

    Energy (kcal) Protein (g) Dietary Fibre

    (g) Iron (mg)

    Folate ( DFE mcg)

    Quinoa* raw

    354 14.1 7.0 4.6 184

    Rice* white, polished, raw

    365 7.1 1.3 1.2 8

    x 1 x 2 x 9 x 4 x 23

    * USDA data in per 100 g edible portion on fresh weight basis.

    Banana -carotene

    content (mcg/100 g)

    Banana intake in Philippines


    Vitamin A intake through

    banana in (mcg RE/d/p)

    RDI for vitamin A covered by

    banana intake (%)

    Cavendish 26 93 4 0.7

    Utin Iap 8508 93 1319 220

    almost no intake

    adequate intake

  • Food composition data

    Nutrient intakes Food labeling Diet

    formulation Breeding/ research

    Research nutrient intake

    - disease

    Nutrient requirements

    Nutrition/food security/health policies

    Agricultural policies

    Food based dietary guidelines

    Food aid/ fortification

    Consumer information

  • Vitamin A deficiency in Micronesia Traditionally, vitamin A deficiency was not know

    With shift to westernized diets (e.g. white rice and mutton tails) vitamin A deficiencies arrived

    Nutrition programme developed based on green leafy vegetables did not work as considered pig foods

    Exploration of traditional diets showed that local varieties of bananas and taro were very rich in carotenoides > current programme re-introduces the traditional diet seems to work. See http://www.islandfood.org

  • The Great Vitamin A Fiasco (M. Latham)

    Vitamin A (capsule) programmes are ineffective. They use up precious human and material resources. Most of all, they impede other approaches to the prevention of vitamin A deficiency [...]. These include breastfeeding, and the protection and development of healthy, affordable and appropriate food systems and supplies. Such approaches also protect against other diseases, are sustainable, enhance well-being, and have social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits.

    capsules do not have a significant effect on mortality but de-worming and measles vaccination are effective

    exceedingly rich sources of carotene such as palm and other fruits, tend to be overlooked [...], one reason being that they often grow wild, and even when cultivated do not feature in international or national food composition tables

  • Why consider biodiverse foods/NUS? May have very interesting food compositions

    however often not known because not analyzed

    Part of local food systems: food culture, taste, traditions, medicine and spirituality


    Survived for centuries

    Contribute to resilient ecosystem

    Needed for adaptation to climate change and external shocks

    Represent the genetic resources to improve mainstreamed crops and breeds

  • Why are NUS forgotten? Agriculture emphasize on 3 crops (wheat, corn, maize) and the big 5 (cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep and goats) for research, production, subsidies, marketing and food security. And on energy only. Therefore:

    NUS have poor economic competitiveness because of little or no investments in NUS

    NUS lower productivity, yield, income and marketing

    NUS could be more labour intensive

    NUS got/will get lost if not used

    Changes towards more Western style diets and lifestyles

    Stigma of food of the poor.

  • Links between biodiversity, food and nutrition recognized by:

    International Rice Commission (2002)

    Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2014 links to health added and WHO

    Commission on genetic resources for food and agriculture (CGRFA)


    ICN2 (2014)

    Links increasingly recognized by more organizations and bodies and with a wider scope

  • How to achieve food security Objective: to produce sufficient nutrients for a healthy diet for all at all times and ensure that a population is able to acquire foods in sufficient quantity and quality and to utilize them efficiently.

    Availability Agricultural production = foods for

    humans Not only quantity (yield and

    energy) is important but quality (esp. micronutrient content) = shift in paradigm

    Processed foods should contain good nutrient profiles

    Access Market, income

    Utilization Human body is in good health Foods and water are safe Consumers demand high quality foods Adequate intra-household distribution of


    Stability Economic, political, environmental and

    GR stability Sustainable agriculture conserving and

    utilizing biodiversity Sustainable consumption

  • Factors influencing nutrient composition of rice

    Rice varieties

    Source: adapted from T. Longvah, NIN, India

    Environmental conditions: water, light

    Fertilizer Soil

    quality Milling Cooking Storage

    Agricultural influence Post harvest influences


  • International Rice Commission The Commission recommended that:

    Existing biodiversity of rice varieties and their nutritional composition need to be explored before engaging in transgenic research.

    Nutrient content needs to be among the criteria in cultivar promotion.

    Cultivar-specific nutrient analysis and data dissemination should be systematically undertaken.

    FAO (2002). Report of the International Rice Commission 20th Session (23-26 July 2002, Bangkok). FAO, Rome.

  • Optimal food with

    high nutrient content

    high yield and pest resistance

    high acceptance by population

    acceptable price

    Nutrition education, promotion/ads

    Production and

    distribution on large scale

    Better nutrition, food security and income generation

    Nutrition and Food


    Agricultural research

    Genetic resources

  • FAOs contribution to scientific evidence on biodiversity

  • No mainstreaming of nutrition or biodiversity


    Each having own goals

    assumptions, policies,

    programmes, messages sometimes conflicting




    Food security

    Finance, Trade

    Poverty reduction


    Education Biodiversity

  • Mainstreaming of nutrition and biodiversity





    Food security

    Finance, Trade

    Poverty reduction




    Common and coherent goals, assumptions, policies, programmes, messages to achieve better food-based nutrition through using existing biodiversity, especially for micronutrients.

  • Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) endorsed in 2015

    Voluntary Guidelines for Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Policies, Programmes and National and Regional Plans of Action on Nutrition:

    Rational why the guidelines are important

    Objectives assist countries in mainstreaming GF

    Principles including element for planning

    Three main elements

    Research describe knowledge gap and way forward

    Implementation describe important components

    Awareness describe how to raise awareness of the general public and of the different stakeholders

  • www.b4fn.org

    GEF-funded project Mainstreaming Biodiversity

    Conservation and Sustainable Use for Improved Human

    Nutrition and Well-being (2012 2017)


    - Conservation of biodiversity through use

    - Improve supply and demand side:

    Through increased scientific evidence (food

    composition) identify foods high in nutrients.

    Increase their market potential and public awareness

    - Influence policies to integrate biodiversity

  • BFN project: New analytical data to be generated on their composition

    Sri Lanka: 6 plant species (20 varieties)

    Brazil: 70 underutilized fruit species + 20 traditional vegetable species

    Kenya: 12 plant and animal species

    Turkey: 43 wild plant species

  • Challenges when mainstreaming NUS Example quinoa - International year of quinoa in 2013

    Global demand increased for standardized products

    New products and market chains developed

    Price increased in Bolivia

    More income for farmers

    Poor could no more afford quinoa and replaced it with less nutritious crops

    Substantial soil degradation and a loss of biodiversity of quinoa varieties ( 3 varieties for 75% production) = monoculture and its associated problems

    Through investment into agricultural research, quinoa is now cultivated in many countries, e.g. USA or DK

    Policies needed to avoid harm to food systems and people

  • FA



    lio N




    Participants Over 2.200 people participated in the ICN2 Eminent personalities 162 Member States of FAO and WHO + 1 Associate Member + EU + 3 Observers - 85 Ministers and 23 Vice- Ministers from Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Health and other sectors - 82 Ambassadors and 114 High-level government officials Accredited Observers - 27 UN and other IGOs - 164 civil society and private sector organizations Parliamentarians, opinion leaders, researchers and development experts

  • Outcome documents

    Rome Declaration on Nutrition

    commitment for more effective and coordinated

    action to improve nutrition

    Framework for Action

    a voluntary technical guide for implementation

    of Political Declaration

  • Ten ICN2 commitments Eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition

    Increase investments

    Enhance sustainable food systems

    Raise the profile of nutrition

    Strengthen human and institutional capacities

    Strengthen and facilitate, contributions and action by all


    Ensure healthy diets throughout the life course

    Create enabling environment for making informed choices

    Implement commitments through Framework for Action

    Integrate vision and commitments into post-2015 agenda

  • Framework for Action 60 policy and strategy recommendations to achieve better nutrition for all Thematic areas for action: - Enabling environment with multi-sector engagement - Sustainable food systems for healthy diets - Nutrition-enhancing investment and trade - Nutrition education and information - Social protection - Strong and resilient health systems, including actions on: o breastfeeding, wasting , stunting , childhood overweight and obesity, anaemia in women of reproductive age and health services to improve nutrition - Water sanitation and hygiene - Food safety - Accountability

    Governments primary responsibility to take action, in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders

  • Summary Biodiversity and NUS can improve nutrition, health and food

    security based on foods.

    Biodiversity can make the difference between nutritional adequacy and inadequacy and professionals and consumers need to know more about it.

    Biodiversity needs to be mainstreamed into many policies and programmes (Voluntary Guidelines).

    Move to nutrition-sensitive agriculture (ICN2).

    The more biodiversity and diverse diets are consumed the lower the need for fortification and supplementation.

  • Thank you for your attention

    Any questions?

    [email protected]

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