Global diets get more similar in threat to food security: study

Mon Mar 3, 2014 3:06pm EST
 
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By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - Increasing similarity in diets worldwide is a threat to health and food security with many people forsaking traditional crops such as cassava, sorghum or millet, an international study showed on Monday.

The report, which said it detailed for the first time the convergence in crops towards a universal diet in more than 150 nations since the 1960s, showed rises for foods including wheat, rice, soybeans and sunflower.

Among shifts, Pacific islanders were eating fewer coconuts as a source of fat and many people in Southeast Asia were getting fewer calories from rice, it said.

"More people are consuming more calories, protein and fat, and they rely increasingly on a shortlist of major food crops ... along with meat and dairy products," Colin Khoury, leader of the study at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia, said in a statement.

Such diets have been linked to risks of heart disease, cancers and diabetes, the study said. Reliance on a narrower group of food crops also raises vulnerability to pests and diseases that might gain because of climate change.

Overall, diets had become 36 percent more similar in the past 50 years, judged by factors such as shifts in consumption of more than 50 crops for calories and protein, the study said.

The convergence "continues with no indication of slowing", according to the study in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that included the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Soybean, sunflower oil and palm oil had become part of the "standard global food supply" alongside crops such as wheat, rice, maize and potato, the study showed.   Continued...