FAO appoints Dr Joyce Boye as a Special Ambassador for the International Year of Pulses 2016 (IYP)

23 June 2016, Washington, D.C. –During an event hosted by FAO's Liaison Office for North America, Dr. Joyce Boye, a distinguished researcher and innovator from Canada, was nominated FAO Special Ambassador for the International Year of Pulses (IYP) 2016. The event also included a panel discussion which, in addition to Joyce Boye, featured Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University; John Finley, Senior Nutrition Scientist at the US Department for Agriculture; Asma Lateef, Director of the Bread for the World Institute and Joe Yonan, Food and Dining Editor at The Washington Post.

In his opening remarks Ajay Markanday, the Director of FAO’s Liaison Office for North America, emphasized the major role pulses can play to achieve the global Zero Hunger goal by 2030 based on their nutrient-density, affordability and positive impact on soil. He also stated that pulses are important to achieve the cross-cutting solutions required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “We are very confident that the designation of Dr. Boye with her knowledge and influence will amplify the message that increasing the consumption of pulses can improve the quality of people’s diet and their overall health.”

During her acceptance speech, Joyce Boye rallied her audience stating “I am humbled and delighted to accept this nomination of the FAO 2016 IYP Ambassador for North America and to work with the FAO to spread the word about the wonderful attributes of pulses. The International Year of Pulses is a great opportunity for farmers, food processors, consumers, governments and policy makers to come together to celebrate the many benefits of pulses and their contribution to global health, environmental sustainability and  food security.” Joyce Boye shared her vision of a world of opportunities and called the audience to “imagine a world where the options for food preparation are as diverse as the crops one could choose from”

The panel discussion helped increase public awareness of nutritional benefits of pulses, encouraged their production and trade, and promoted new and smarter uses throughout the food chain. John Finley encouraged the consumption of pulse foods by suggesting that “A healthy eating pattern includes: A variety of vegetables including legumes (beans and peas) and a variety of protein foods.” Asma Lateef focused on the importance of pulses for good nutrition and the opportunity to do much more to improve nutrition outcomes through agriculture. Kathleen Merrigan proposed that “It is time for government-issued dietary guidance to address sustainability concerns. When this happens, pulses will become a larger portion of the dinner plate.” Finally, Joe Yonan stressed the potentials of pulses to evolve into the latest trend, as many people strive to diversify the source of protein in their diet. Contrary to what is generally assumed, cooking with pulses is easy and the dishes are very tasty and diverse.

The panel highlighted existing scientific evidence of the benefits of pulses. Because they help fix nitrogen in our soils, they make them healthier, more productive, and less dependent on synthetic fertilizers. The result is a smaller carbon print and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Pulses have high water efficiency: 50 litres of water are needed to produce 1 kg of lentils, compared to 13’000 litres to produce 1 kg of beef. Pulses are also packed with proteins. When consumed with cereals, pulses increase the protein quality of meals. Pulses are affordable, making them an ideal crop to improve people’s diets in poorer parts of the world.

The panel concluded that the benefits of pulses are not yet well known, but this can be changed: there is a sense of optimism about increased interest for pulses in our diets. It highlighted some of the research gaps that need to be filled in order to make informed decisions and to support education and awareness building efforts. The conversation also explored why farmers could be interested in growing pulses, such as crop rotation, and the challenges they face, such as low prices.

Barbara Ekwall, Senior Liaison Officer and moderator of the event, stated that “Pulses are a superfood with multiple benefits for nutrition, health, environment, poverty eradication. They offer unique opportunities that we cannot afford to forego.” The Director of FAO's Liaison Office in New York, Carla Mucavi, joined the ceremony and offered closing remarks which highlighted the importance of partnerships and cross-cutting collaboration.

The IYP 2016 is engaging key players, including farmers, researchers, academia, the private sector, indigenous people, and their representatives in country-driven activities throughout the world. The event held today is a milestone and a step forward on a long journey ahead. There is a vision, there is knowledge and the event identified promising ways to bring these two facets together and to allow pulses to evolve into the super crop they deserve to be.  


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