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Edible Plant Database To Help World Feed Itself

posted 17 Dec 2013, 05:54 by Mpelembe   [ updated 17 Dec 2013, 05:55 ]

An agricultural scientist in Australia has developed what is believed to be the world's most comprehensive database of edible plants. Bruce French from the island state of Tasmania says the data base will help international aid organisations identify nutrient-rich foods in countries suffering drought and starvation.

BURNIETASMANIAAUSTRALIA (RECENT) (AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION) -  Burnie-based agricultural scientist Bruce French says the idea of creating a database of all the world's edible plants came to him during a field trip in Papua New Guinea where he was living 40 years ago.

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He says he was struck by the number of people in villages suffering disease and malnutrtion, despite the abundance of nutritious native plants growing nearby. It was not that people didn't know about them, but that they'd been conditioned to eat from only certain groups of plants, he says.

So French set out to make a list and, ever since, he says his database has continued to grow.

"A few minutes ago, I just found another one, just a little while ago," he told ABC television during an interview.

French believes his database has application for aid agencies helping people in developing nations all over the world.

"Press the button and it will give them every fruit that would grown in an arid area of Africa or whatever, and then they can save it as a PDF book or they can print it out or do what they like with it," said French.

Buz Green, chairman of non-profit group, Food Plant Solutions, says he hopes French's database will change the way aid agencies approach hunger in the developing world.

"Instead of what has been done in the past, which is largely to take western concepts and ideas and teach them to grow western foods is to gain an understanding of what foods are grown naturally and thrive in those places," said Green.

And French says there are thousands of them all over the world. His database contains nearly 25,000 plants along with their descriptions, photographs, growing methods, illustrations of the edible parts and even cooking instructions.

Richard Doyle, the head of the School of Agricultural Science at the University of Tasmania agrees, the database could save lives.

"If we're only using 120, 150 plants one's got to acknowledge that that database of 25 thousand edible plants must hold some hidden secrets and that's another area I think potentially of very exciting research."

French says he's been flooded with inquiries about his database from within Australia but says it will be of most use in countries where the main concern is availibility of good nutritious food on a daily basis.

"A child is dying every six or eight seconds from malnutrition around the world," he said.

"If it's adopted, it can materially reduce the problem, significantly reduce the problem," said Green.