Thursday, November 06, 2008

The year of the potato

While many food staples have gone up in price, the potato's price has stayed relatively the same. The United Nations has been promoting the potato in what they declared the "International Year of the Potato 2008" The UN feels that spuds can play a huge role in providing food security to the under developed world.

In this story from the Voice Of America, reporter Lisa Schlein show how the potato can help draw us closer to the Millennium Development Goals.

To many people, the potato is an object of fun. Couch potato comes immediately to mind. But, the United Nations thinks the spud is a stud as far as it's ability to feed and preserve the planet. It goes so far as to say that the potato can help save the lives of many of the world's poor and hungry.

Paolo Garonna is Officer in Charge of the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe. He noted the U.N. General Assembly resolution that launched 2008 as the International Year of the Potato stressed the link between the potato and the Millennium Development Goals.

These, he said, include food security, poverty eradication, health and safety.

"It is really a hidden treasure," said Garonna. "It is a hidden treasure from the point of view of the long-term objectives of the U.N. It is the most widely grown tuber crop. It is the fourth largest food crop after rice, wheat and corn. It is a global food staple…Potatoes are easy to grow, even in harsh environments. They have a high-energy content. They can be produced from a very small area of land. So, I think small peasants and poor families can grow potatoes. They are rich in vitamin C," he said.

Before the food crisis began, 800 million people suffered from chronic hunger and under-nutrition. The United Nations reported that figure has now risen to 923 million. While the price of most food commodities has skyrocketed, the U.N. noted the cost of potatoes has remained relatively low.

The U.N. said it is important to boost agricultural production and productivity in a sustainable manner. It said the cultivation of potatoes is very much part of comprehensive efforts for greater food security through productivity gains.

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