Dr. John Hoddinott

“It’s not just about the quantity of calories. We also need to focus on the diversity of diet.”

Cornell’s Dr. John Hoddinott was formerly the Deputy Division Director at the International Food Policy Research Institute. He looked at undernutrition in developing countries, tried to understand why people face deprivation and malnutrition, and ultimately tried to see if changes can be made to ameliorate these issues. He explained to me the “Green vs. Grey Revolution”:

“In the past, we were scared that the world couldn’t physically sustain the growing population. Scientists focused on crossbreeding of plants; they realized that the use of pesticides and fertilizers and more water could increase output.

What I found was that what we were scared of fifty years ago did not happen – which is good, compared to the alternative – but there is little effect on the nutrition status in children. It’s not just about the quantity of calories. We also need to focus on the diversity of diet. In these countries, it’s not a major problem to access cheap foods. Production of these cheap staple crops could be good for developing countries whose immediate struggle is to feed people. On the other hand, people may not be able to have diverse diets.”

Learn why diet diversity is important from Dr. Prabhu Pingali, Founding Director of the Tata-Cornell Initiative.

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