2016 International Year of Pulses
The United Nations has declared 2016 ‘The International Year of Pulses and Food Security’. The aim is to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition.
The vision will include global food security - in particular the need to improve nutrition for the bottom of the global health and wealth pyramid; and the development of new and different pulse based food products to meet Western tastes as part of a role in combating chronic Western diet/ health conditions of obesity, diabetes, some cancers and cardio-vascular disease.
This Year will create a unique opportunity to encourage connections throughout the food chain that will better utilise pulse-based proteins, further global production of pulses, better utilise crop rotations and address challenges in the world trade in pulses. Four themes have been chosen to focus the vision:
FOOD & NUTRITION SECURITY AND INNOVATION
PRODUCTIVITY & ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
MARKETING ACCESS & SUSTAINABILITY
WHAT ARE PULSES?
‘Pulses’ - also called ‘grain legumes’ – is the name given to the edible dried seeds of leguminous plants. Legumes are plants which produce a double-seamed pod containing a single row of seeds. They are quite different to cereals/ grain which are the seeds of a grass plant.
In Australia pulses make up a group of 12 crops which include beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils.
Pulses have been a main food source in the diets of many cultures around the world for thousands of years. Pulse crops are one of the most sustainable crops a farmer can grow, with many varieties needing much less water and energy input than grain crops with a comparable nutritional yield. Being legumes they also contribute to soil fertility by fixing nitrogen in the soil.
Pulses belong to the plant family known as ‘Fabaceae’ the third largest family of flowering plants on Earth - with over 18 000 species.
WHY HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL YEAR TO CELEBRATE PULSES?
Pulses are a nutritional power-house! They are a vital source of plant based proteins and amino acids for people and animals. They are high in fibre, gluten free, salt free and cholesterol free. The low levels of fat that they contain are mainly the unsaturated fatty acids which help lower the harmful LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Their high levels of complex carbohydrates make them a low GI food. Pulses are loaded with minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B-group vitamins and essential trace elements of copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Pulses are sometimes called “the meat for the poor” because of the affordable protein they provide to more than 400 million people in the developing world who depend on them as the main source of nourishment in their diet. In the Western world they are increasingly being seen as a possible solution to the rising incidence of diet related diseases which are swamping the health system and debilitation large numbers of once productive people.
WHAT DO PULSES HAVE TO DO WITH GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY?
Pulses are locally adapted crops which can be grown by farmers for their own nutrition, to feed animals and for sale. They keep well in storage and are highly accepted as a food source.
Because of their role in improving soil and as part of a crop rotation system pulses can assist in limiting soil degradation. Since varieties of pulses can be found in so many different soil and climate types there is just about ‘a pulse for every situation’ except the Arctic and Antarctic and so issues of lower rainfall, global warming and greenhouse gas influences are less likely to cause a catastrophic food shortage if countries and communities can co-operate and work together by sharing seed varieties, agricultural techniques and markets.
For more information on the 2016 International Year of Pulses please visit the official website http://www.fao.org/pulses-2016/en/
Download the official 2016 International Year of Pulses Leaflet (6 page pdf)
Download the official 2016 International Year of Pulses poster (pdf)