60% of our diet today comes from just 4 crops – out of a possible 30,000 farmable, palatable crops. This limited diet causes multiple health issues. How did we get here? What’s going on with agriculture? How do we fix it?
Seta Tutundjian, Director of Programs at ICBA, joins us for a deep-dive into crop-breeding and why it is so important for over 1B people on our planet.
Breeding crops and increasing food supply in challenging environments.
Seta Tutundjian is the Director of Programs at the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), a non-profit joint venture between the UAE Govt and the Islamic Development Bank. She had spent 15 years working with USAID in Jordan, strengthening institutions and working on policy reform. During her last 4 years at ICBA, Seta has focused on breeding crops in the world’s most challenging environments.
I was shocked to learn how few crops are being farmed commercially relative to the huge variety of palatable species available on our planet: do you know that of a possible 30,000 palatable species, we cultivate only 150 crops? And 60% of our collective diet comes form just 4 crops? This limited diet has led to a lot of health problems, simultaneously obesity and malnutrition. We also discussed “super-crops” and the facts why quinoa is a winner.
The world’s soil is becoming more and more saline, and this is a huge challenge for agriculture. Two thousand hectares of arable land is being lost daily to salinity! We talked about how the poorest 1 billion people on the planet live in “marginal” environments, and how their lack of good soil or water limits their ability to farm their way out of poverty – and hunger.
My favorite quote was: “It is not just about food security but also nutrient security”.