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International Year of the Potato

The potato is an important food source for millions of people worldwide and is viewed as a vital tool in feeding the increasing global population and promoting global food security. The United Nations' (UN) International Year of the Potato is held together with other UN initiatives - the International Year of Languages, the International Year of Planet Earth, and the International Year of Sanitation.

Freshly dug potatoes at a farm.

The year 2008 was the International Year of the Potato, which celebrated the important role that the potato plays in the world's food supply.

©iStockphoto.com/kryczka

Events

Various events were held worldwide in 2008 to celebrate the International Year of the Potato. These events included exhibitions, conferences, seminars and workshops for agricultural researchers, politicians and policy makers. Many activities were organized to educate children, students, farmers and consumers about the potato as a vital food source. These included:

Many countries, including Indonesia and Spain, held National Potato Weeks.

Background

The potato has been a food source in the Andes Mountains in South America for about 8000 years. About 5000 varieties of potato were developed to grow in different climates and at different altitudes. The potato was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Since then it spread around the world and has been incorporated into the cuisine of nearly every region.

Potatoes are now an important crop and invaluable food source all over the world. They are rich in carbohydrates, vitamin C, potassium and protein, making them an excellent food source for humans. Moreover, potato peel and other low value waste are used to produce ethanol for use as fuel. Raw or processed potatoes can also be used to feed a range of domestic animals, including cows and pigs.

The growing world population, a changing global climate and the growth of international trade mean that humanity faces important challenges around food production in the future. There is an increased awareness of the need to protect food security for present and future generations, particularly for poorer countries. It is believed that the potato can play an important role in these policies, particularly in the wake of price increases of major cereal crops, such as wheat, rice and maize.

 In 2005 the UN General Assembly accepted a resolution to focus world attention on the importance of the potato in providing food security and alleviating poverty. The resolution noted that the potato is a staple food in the diet of the world's population and affirmed the role that the potato could play in achieving internationally agreed development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Symbols

The official International Year of the Potato logo consists of two elements: a bowl of potatoes that were harvested or cooked; and a golden tuber growing in the earth. These elements symbolize the connections between the earth or ground and the supply of food and between humanity and agriculture.

The official slogan is "Hidden Treasure". These words highlight two important aspects of the potato. Firstly, that the edible part of the plant grows and remains hidden below the ground until it is harvested. Secondly, that the potato's importance as a source of food in the economy and as a pillar of global food security is often overlooked.

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