Study sponsored by Knorr and WWF
It is at least refreshing, even positively promising, to come across a “Future 50 Foods” study devoid of synthetic meat, cockroaches and/or bio-engineering. Here’s a glimpse to a food-future built on traditional (did I mention “delicious”?) wisdom from the recent past.
Excerpts from The Future 50 Foods Report
Globally we rely on a small range of foods. This negatively impacts our health and the health of the planet. Seventy-five percent of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species. Just three (rice, maize, wheat) make up nearly 60 percent of calories from plants in the entire human diet. This excludes many valuable sources of nutrition. While people may be getting sufficient calories, these narrow diets don’t provide enough vitamins and minerals.
Dietary monotony is linked to a decline in the diversity of plants and animals used in and around agriculture (agrobiodiversity), threatening the resilience of our food system and limiting the breadth of food we can eat. Since 1900, a staggering 75 percent of the genetic plant diversity in agriculture has been lost. In most Asian countries, the number of rice types grown has decreased rapidly from thousands to a dozen. In Thailand, for example, the 16,000 varieties once cultivated have dropped to just 37 varieties3. In the past century, the United States has lost 80 percent of its cabbage, pea and tomato varieties. This dependence on a limited pool of crop species leaves harvests vulnerable to pests, diseases and the impact of climate change. Farming a narrow range of crops using intensive methods can have serious repercussions on our fragile natural ecosystems. Monoculture farming, which is the repeated harvesting of a single crop, and over-reliance on animal-based foods are threatening food security. Monoculture farming can deplete nutrients and leave soil vulnerable to the build-up of pests and pathogens. This requires applications of fertilisers and pesticides that can, if used inappropriately, damage wildlife and leach into water systems. Many types of birds, animals and wild plants cannot thrive in biologically degraded landscapes.
Reliance on animal-based protein sources puts additional strain on our environment and current agricultural practices are not sustainable in the long term. Total agriculture accounts for around
a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, of which approximately 60 percent is due to animal
agriculture6. Meat, dairy and egg production is more water, land and greenhouse gas intensive than plant production. It also contributes to pollution through liquid waste discharged into rivers and seas. These problems seem insurmountable, but we believe that large scale change starts with small actions.
The list of Future 50 Foods, consisting of vegetables, grains, cereals, seeds, legumes and nuts from across the globe, has been developed to inspire greater variety in what we cook and eat. It is intended to enable three important dietary shifts. First, a greater variety of vegetables to increase intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Second, plant-based sources of protein to replace meat, poultry and fish, resulting in reduced negative impact on our environment. Third, more nutrient-rich sources of carbohydrates to promote agrobiodiversity and provide more nutrients.
Not all 50 foods are currently easily accessible. Working together with partners allows us to
make these foods more commonly grown and more widely eaten. By making a conscious choice to consume more of the Future 50 Foods, we take a crucial step towards improving the global food system. Swapping staples like maize and white rice for fonio or spelt increases the nutrient
content of a dish while contributing to greater agrobiodiversity, making our food supply more
resilient. It also helps safeguard these ancient variants for future generations.
These 50 foods are some of the many that we can and should eat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are between 20,000 and 50,000 discovered edible plant species, of which only 150 to 200 are regularly consumed by humans7.
Future 50 Foods is the beginning of a journey and a way for people to make a change, one delicious dish at a time.
- Algae (Seaweed), e.g. Wakame seaweed, etc.
- Beans and Pulses, e.g. Lentils, Adzjuki beans, Fava beans, Mung beans, etc.
- Cereals and Grains, e.g. Buckwheat, Khorasan wheat, Spelt, Quinoa, Wild Rice, etc.
- Fruit Vegetables, e.g. Pumpkin Flowers, Okra, etc.
- Leaf Greens, e.g. Kale, Bok Choi, Maringa, Red Cabbage, Spinach, Watercress, etc.
- Mushrooms, e.g. Enoki mushrooms, Maitake mushrooms, etc.
- Nuts and Seeds, e.g. Flax seeds, Sesame seeds, Walnuts, etc.
- Tubers, e.g. Red Indonesian (Cilembu) sweet potatoes, Ube (purple Yam), etc.
For the full Future 50 Foods Report, click here.