“Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco.”
That’s what Belgian professor Olivier de Schutter of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the organization’s annual summit. It’s also a pretty bold statement considering tobacco has been held as one of the highest risks to global health for years.
He went on to say, “Just as the world came together to regulate the risks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed.”
The United Nations dubbed 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa back in February, cementing the seed’s rise as a bona fide superfood after several years of growing popularity. Looking to strengthen food security, create jobs, and promote nutrition on a global level, choosing the ancient and perennial quinoa plant must have been a no-brainer for the UN.
This is not to say the abundant benefits of quinoa are anything new. I first remember seeing quinoa at a health foods grocer in 2006, and as an 18 year old college student, it wasn’t pizza so I didn’t give it a second thought. Since 2006, quinoa has exploded into our collective food consciousness and the price of the crop has nearly tripled. The grain-like quinoa—it’s technically a “pseudo cereal”—is nothing new to the people of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, who’ve been growing it for over 5,000 years. (Side not: part of the UN’s campaign may be related to the fact that the rising popularity of quinoa in rich countries means the very people who’ve cultivated the crop for multiple millennia can’t even afford to purchase it now.) The quinoa crop is exceptionally adaptable, thriving in below freezing and 100 degree temperatures.
In an international meeting on agroecology held on June 22 in Brussels, Olivier De Schutter stated that organic and sustainable farming is not only a solution to degraded soiled and polluted water, but can also end world hunger and global climate change. De Shutter is the UN’s Special Rappteur on the Right to Food, considered to be an internationally recognized human right. He is also an expert in agroecology.
“Governments and international agencies urgently need to boost ecological farming techniques to increase food production and save the climate,” De Schutter stated while presenting his findings. He decried the current large-scale production methods involving “improved seeds, chemical fertilizers and machines” that rapidly leads to soil and water degradation. “Scant attention has been paid to agroecological methods that have been shown to improve food production and farmers’ incomes, while at the same time protecting the soil, water, and climate.”
It may be that vegetarians and vegans are finally having their day in the limelight:
“A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change,” says a just-released report issued by the UN.
As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.