Biodiversity to help widen food basket

Chennai, April 19 | Updated: Apr 20 2005, 05:30am hrs
Planners and development economists in the world are struggling to redeem the three billion human beings from the pangs of hunger. Empowered by the Millennium Development Goal, a United Nations Hunger Task Force, co-chaired by Prof M S Swaminathan, is submitting its report of recommendations in September 2005, five years after the initiation of the target of ending world hunger by 2015.

About 100 people from 21 countries took part in an international consultation at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation here on Monday and Tuesday to consider how agricultural biodiversity can help the world to achieve the goal of freedom from hunger and poverty.

The consultation has come out with recommendations like promotion of dietary diversity and nutritional literacy in school curricula to consumers to rehabilitate the reputation of traditional food stuffs.

Prof Swaminathan said these draft recommendations derived from the consultation would be developed into a document in a fortnight to be submitted to the UN. He said the great task was to widen the food basket. Now a few crops like paddy and wheat dominate the world food supply. In the past we had hundreds of plants for food and and medicines. "Now they have become dying wisdom and vanishing crops. We have to revitalise them," he said.

He said hunger itself was visible in three forms. Endemic hunger, for want of buying power, hidden hunger or malnourishment and transient hunger, that arises out of civil wars or natural calamities.

Mr Emile A Frison, director general, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, said agricultural biodiversity is the basis for crop improvement.