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Super spud steps forward to save planet

  • Story Highlights
  • Potato hailed as vegetable to tackle hunger and poverty
  • U.N. called 2008 International Year of the Potato
  • U.N. says potato farming ideally suited to much of the developing world
  • Peruvian center looking to develop hardier potatoes
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(CNN) -- It appears the global food crisis can be averted. The solution? The humble potato.

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An indigenous Peruvian woman boils potatoes but the vegetable could be ready for bigger challenges.

That's the assertion of the International Potato Center -- yes, there is one -- in Lima, Peru. It held a conference this month about the potato being the "food of the future."

But it's not the only one hailing the qualities of the dirty spud.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato to raise awareness of the tuber's importance in addressing global hunger, poverty, and threats to the environment.

Can the potato really do all of that? According to the United Nations, yes.

Potato farming is ideally suited to places where land is limited and labor is abundant, conditions that characterize much of the developing world, the FAO says.

Potatoes are nutritious, too: They have the highest protein content of root and tuber crops (around 2.1 percent), half the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, and a fifth of the recommended daily value of potassium.

In declaring 2008 the year of the potato, the FAO said it wanted to focus world attention on the role the potato can play in providing food security and alleviating poverty.

It noted the potato -- the Number 4 food crop worldwide -- is already a staple food in the diet of the world population.

Back at the International Potato Center in Peru, where potatoes were first cultivated 8,000 years ago, they're trying to provide farmers with poor resources some help in cultivating more and better potatoes.

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The center says it's looking for ways to produce potato varieties that require less water for growing and have greater resistance to pests and climate change.

Whether fried, roasted, boiled, mashed, baked or scalloped, potatoes already please palates around the world. Now, they may just be doing their part to save the world. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Diet and NutritionFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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