The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture started the year with an awkwardly named but nevertheless resonating event — at the “Potato Staple-ization Strategy Research Symposium, Vice-minister of Agriculture, Yu Xinrong, proclaimed that potatoes shall become China’s fourth staple food. That netizens tweeted more than half a million responses on Sina Weibo about this denotes more than sheer curiosity.
Historically speaking, potatoes, an American contribution to the world’s food basket, quickly became a mainstay on tables through most of the Old World, despite initial trepidation among the Europeans.
In China, however, spuds have largely remained within the category of dishes, rather than the staple source of carbohydrates and thus energy of the meal
The Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to “staple-fy” spuds should be interpreted as increased pressure to expand potato production — the stated goal is to almost double the current reported plantations of 80 million mu to 150 million mu. That’s an increase of almost half a million hectares. New investment in growing technologies and varieties will be made available, which has predictably caused knee-jerk concerns about potential weakly regulated experiments with genetic modification.
A curious and unfortunate potential side-effect of expanded cultivation is the replacement of existing technologies and varieties with improved yields with the accompanying other side of the coin — disappearance of existing livelihoods and genetic as well as cultural diversity.
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