Biocultural diversity in the sustainability of developing country food systems

  • Johns T
  • Sthapit B
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The policy implications of a model of contemporary food systems for
developing countries that integrates nutrition, reduction of disease
risk, culture, income generation, and biodiversity are reviewed within
a theoretical and empirical examination of the relevance of nutrition
to the priorities put forward at the World Summit on Sustainable
Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002. Agricultural, health,
economic, and social policies with local reach are necessary responses
to the increase in noncommunicable disease associated with the globalization
of food systems. Nutrition offers a nexus for the changes in individual
behavior and motivation essential for fundamental shifts in production
and consumption patterns. Mutual consideration of biocultural diversity
and nutrition can guide policy, research, promotion, and applied
action in developing countries. Benefits from enhanced use of biodiversity
must legitimately flow to the undernourished poor, while potential
negative consequences must be minimized and mitigated. Quality and
quantity of food need not be mutually exclusive. Functions related
to energy density, glycemic control, oxidative stress, and immunostimulation
define important research priorities. Tests of the hypothesis that
biodiversity equates with dietary diversity and health might combine
quantitative indicators of dietary and biological diversity with
nutrition and health outcomes. Biodiversity, where it ispart of traditional
agricultural and food systems, can be best conserved and enhanced
through rational use within a broad-based developmental focus on
small-scale and low-input production. The fact that traditional systems,
once lost, are hard to recreate underlines the imperative for timely
documentation, compilation, and dissemination of eroding knowledge
of biodiversity and the use of food culture for promoting positive

Author-supplied keywords

  • Agro-biodiversity
  • WSSD
  • dietary diversity
  • functional food
  • nutrition transition
  • wild food

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  • T Johns

  • B R Sthapit

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