By 2050, the world will need to feed approximately nine billion people, which is two billion more than today. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) leads international efforts to help overcome worldwide hunger. This is a huge undertaking given that a billion people around the world are suffering from chronic hunger. In the next century, grains and legumes will be positioned to play a major role in achieving global food security. The UN recently declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa, and 2016 is being considered for the International Year of Pulses.
The challenge in addressing global food security over the next century is to deliver nutritious, safe and affordable food, while using less land and fewer inputs (energy and water), and generating less waste and environmental impact. The added pressures of climate variability and population growth mean global cooperation is critical.
The FAO’s promotion of quinoa in 2013 and potentially pulses in 2016 aims to focus international attention on the biodiversity and nutritional value of these crops. This could mean more resources for further research and frameworks to grow and promote these crops on a global scale.
As nutritious crops, quinoa and pulses have enormous potential in meeting the increasing dietary needs of the world’s population. Recent research through the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation indicates that quinoa, which originates from South America, is an adaptable crop that can be grown in a range of conditions around the world and in Australia. Research also shows that growing pulses releases as little as a third of the greenhouse gases generated by other crops.
A key feature of quinoa’s popularity as a health food is its protein content. It contains all the essential amino acids and has a higher protein content than other grain crops, with the exception of pulses.
Both quinoa and pulses also contain a wide range of essential nutrients important for health including fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, such as antioxidants. These health benefits have seen quinoa and pulses recommended as nutritious foods by Australia’s peak health and research body, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), as part of the draft 2011 Australian Dietary Guidelines.
For more information about a range of grains and legumes, and nutritious recipes, visit www.glnc.org.au and subscribe to the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council’s e-news.
For more information see the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Ground Cover Supplement from June–August 2012
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