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By OMOH GABRIEL, Business Editor
A global conference of food has said that undervalued but nutritious food can make the difference in efforts to secure food security across continent, officials attending the 2012 World Nutrition Congress in Rio Degenrio said that 'Placing renewed emphasis on sustaining the natural variety of crops and animals contributing to agriculture, including neglected yet nutritious traditional foods, can improve food security and address growing global concerns over poor nutrition and its negative health effects'.

The conferees said 'The Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project aims to address the narrowing variety of people's diets, with nutritionally-poor processed foods dominating the dinner table. This trend has led to a raft of health issues worldwide. One third of the world's population suffers from hunger and micronutrient malnutrition, while obesity and diet-related chronic illness have reached critical levels.

According to Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International, which is coordinating the project to further research and promote the links between biodiversity and good nutrition, the diversity of crops and their wild relatives, trees, animals, microbes and other species contributing to food production - known as agricultural biodiversity - can counter these trends,

Speaking also Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said 'To meet the challenge of feeding the world population of around nine billion by 2050, we need to consider not only sustainably producing sufficient food but also working towards diversified nutrition, which means providing a healthy diet for all. Agricultural biodiversity plays a central role in meeting this challenge.'

The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the world's largest public source of funding of international environmental projects, is supporting the multi-country project led by Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Bioversity International is coordinating the project with implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).