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A Simple Potato May be the Solution to the Global Food Crisis

A rise in food prices have affected the entire planet, especially third world countries like Egypt and Haiti, where the high cost of food has already lead to rioting and voilence. A variety of factors have been blamed for the global food crisis, including the rise in fuel and energy prices and increased demand in countries with suddenly booming economies, like India and China, as well as climate changes wreaking havoc on crops. A lot of farmers have changed their crops from food to fuel, speculating on the interest in alternative fuels.

Part of the solution, then would be a crop that is not being used as an alternative fuel, like the potato. To focus attention on this, the United Nations named 2008 the International Year of the Potato, calling the vegetable a "hidden treasure." Potatoes are native to Peru, and can be grown at almost any elevation or climate: from the slopes of the Andes Mountains to the tropical flatlands of Asia. They require very little water, mature in as little as 50 days, and can yield between two and four times more food per hectare than wheat or rice.

The humble tuber is less expensive than wheat or rice and provides excellent nutrition in the hungry world. Some discount potatoes for being carb-heavy, but they have an abundance of nutrition, including being just 110 calories. Potatoes have nearly half of the Daily Value of vitamin C and are one of the best sources of potassium and fiber. Potatoes also have more protein than corn and nearly twice the calcium when boiled. Interest in alternative fuel sources has led many of the world's farmers to speculate on their crops, using their fields for biofuel crops like corn and wheat, rather than food crops, which has been part of the food crisis.

The potato is now being investigated to help with food security. In Peru, the government has implemented a program encouraging bakers to use potato flour, rather than wheat flour in an effort to bypass the high cost of wheat. Potato bread is being used to feed everyone from school children to prisoners and the military in the hope the trend will catch on.

Although potatoes originated in Peru, Peruvians eat significantly fewerless potatoes than European countries. The developing world is where most new potato crops are being planted, and as consumption rises, poor farmers have a chance to earn more money. Potatoes do not have a lot of speculative interest in the global economy because they are difficult to transport without getting blight.

But thanks to experiments in German engineering, virus-free potatoes are on the way, making transport and the sale of potatoes on the global food market a real possibility and a potential solution to the problems the food crisis has brought about.

The WeEarth Network is an environmental social network enabling us to explore our connectedness with each other and with our changing world. Find more articles about socially and environmentally responsible living at WeEarth.com.



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