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Globalization of Food Has a Long History

Maya Brahmam's picture

Our Green Competitiveness Launchpad team is looking at agriculture supply chains in Bangladesh and how they’re affected by climate change – as farmers change the crops they plant owing to drought or flooding. As a result, we’ve been exploring the supply chains of a number of crops from guavas to sunflower and mung beans.

There’s a fascinating infographic from CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) that illustrates the geographical diversity of the common foods we eat every day. It shows that the globalization of food began centuries ago. Many cultures incorporate foods that originated thousands of miles away. For example, sunflower originated in North America and is now widely produced in Eastern Europe, and guava originated in Central America and is now mainly produced in South Asia.

What’s more, a study on the globalization of food, points out that food systems are changing, resulting in greater availability and diversity of food, though access to food is not guaranteed. This means that there is a gradual shift toward a universal food culture that is changing what foods people eat, which has led to both undernutrition and obesity in poorer countries. Reuters reported that while undernutrition is falling globally, few developing countries are succeeding in tackling obesity.

So back to mung beans and their interesting 3,000 mile journey from Borneo to Madagascar, which author and environmental historian Jared Diamond called "the single most astonishing fact of human geography for the entire world." The Washington Post reported that “Excavations of thousands of gallons of sediments from 18 sites across Madagascar and other islands off the east African coast revealed that Madagascar and the Comoros archipelago were dominated by ancient Asian cultivars, especially mung beans and rice.”
 

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