Welcome to the Year of the Potato

GENIA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images I’ll bet you didn’t know that 2008 has been designated the “International Year of the Potato.” No, cuddly spuds aren’t going to replace Tai Shan the panda and Knut the polar bear as the photogenic organism that dominates the cuteosphere in the coming year. Rather, U.N. officials at the Food and Agriculture ...

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597369_080101_potato_05.jpg
A man holds potato, shaped as a heart, a symbol of Yulia Tymoshenko's electional block during a mass prayer service on Sofia square in Kiev, 28 September 2007.Ukraine's main parties staged final rallies ahead of snap parliamentary elections Sunday in which pro-Western forces hope to push their Russian-backed rival from power. The streets of central Kiev filled with the party flags of Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko and his ally Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as the blue banners of their bitter adversary, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. AFP PHOTO/GENIA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENIA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)

GENIA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

I'll bet you didn't know that 2008 has been designated the "International Year of the Potato."

No, cuddly spuds aren't going to replace Tai Shan the panda and Knut the polar bear as the photogenic organism that dominates the cuteosphere in the coming year. Rather, U.N. officials at the Food and Agriculture Organization have decided to push potatoes as an efficient way to combat hunger and poverty:

GENIA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

I’ll bet you didn’t know that 2008 has been designated the “International Year of the Potato.”

No, cuddly spuds aren’t going to replace Tai Shan the panda and Knut the polar bear as the photogenic organism that dominates the cuteosphere in the coming year. Rather, U.N. officials at the Food and Agriculture Organization have decided to push potatoes as an efficient way to combat hunger and poverty:

[The potato] is ideally suited to places where land is limited and labour is abundant, conditions that characterize much of the developing world. The potato produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop – up to 85 percent of the plant is edible human food, compared to around 50% in cereals.

So, what does the Year of the Potato mean on a practical level? The first step is “increasing awareness” about potatoes and “activities related to the potato.” Over the longer term, the U.N. hopes to boost sustainable potato production in the developing world.

As it happens, a shift of potato production from developed to developing countries is already underway. In 2005, for the first time, the developing world harvested more tons of potatoes than did the developed world. As usual, China and India explain much of the shift: China is now the planet’s top potato producer, and together, China and India harvest about a third of the world’s spuds.

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