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Notes from the history of SCIVU
(Science Council of IVU)

From The British Vegetarian, Jan/Feb 1968:


PLANT FOODS AND THE WORLD FOOD PROBLEM

(Summaries of the Papers presented at the S.C.I.V.U. Scientific Meeting at Queen Elizabeth College, London, on 15th July, 1967.)

1. - ENERGY REQUIREMENTS

JACK LUCAS, B.Sc., F.R.I.C., University of Manchester

A new scale of units is required for dealing with annual dietary energy requirements of large populations. Two new units are suggested (a) a Mega-Calorie (M Cal) approximately one year's requirement per person at an average rate of 2,740 Calories a day (b) a Terra-Calorie (T Cal) approximate annual requirement for one million persons. The prefix letters M and T precede the existing unit (Calorie) as suggested by Pine (1962).

Recent F.A.O. surveys show that the food supplies of the popu-lation in developing countries (about 2.1 thousand million persons in 1960) are deficient in energy: about 20% of the population are undernourished. F.A.O.'s short-term targets for developing countries in 1975, including allowances for the rising population, require an overall increase of about 50% in the production of energy foods. The developing regions rely to an overwhelming degree for energy foods on the products of the plant kingdom - the plant to animal ratio is 9.3 as compared with 2.0 for the developed regions. It is clear that an increase of 50% can only be obtained by increas-ing the production of plant foods.

In the world as a whole, since the fraction of the initial energy from plant foods fed to animals which becomes available to man in the animal food he consumes is only about a fifth for milk and about a tenth for meat, and as the competition between men and animals for land suitable for food production becomes more and more intense, man will have to depend more and more on plant foods for his dietary energy. The P/A ratio of his average diet will have to rise considerably if a biological balance between man and animals is to be maintained.

11. - PROTEINS

FRANK WOKES, Ph.D., F.R.I.C., Director of the Vegetarian Nutritional Research Centre, Watford

In the world's human population of about three thousand million in 1960, cereals provided about 33 million tons, nuts and pulses about 8 and other fruits and vegetables about 7 out of the total about 69 million tons of protein yearly. Milk and cheese gave about 7½ million tons out of the total of about 21 million tons of animal protein. For the whole population the plant/animal (P/A) ratio was 48/21 (about 2.3); the ratio ranged from 0.3 in North America to 8 in China, being much higher in Group I developing)
countries than in Group II (developed) countries. The protein deficiency disease Kwashiorkor follows low intake of total protein rather than of animal protein.

The P/A ratios for protein yields in lb. per acre, measured against yields of meat protein, range from 5 to 7 for cereals to 15 to 26 for green leafy vegetables. When measured against milk the ratios are approximately halved. The mean P/A ratio for meat therefore is about 10 and for milk about 5.

Although animal foods are generally considered to be richer sources of protein, various plant foods such as nuts and pulses have a higher protein content than meat, milk or eggs calculated either on their composition as prepared for cooking or eating or on the calorie basis. Deficiency of some essential amino-acids such as lysine or methionine in individual plant proteins can be largely overcome by blending different plant proteins producing mixtures with biological values perhaps 15 to 25 per cent. below those of human milk protein. Vitamin B12 should be added.

Wholesale prices in U.S.A. and in India, and retail prices in U.K. show plant proteins to be much cheaper than animal proteins.

F.A.O. targets for world food production in 1975 visualise a total annual consumption in human diets of about 112 million tons of protein, of which about 34 million tons will be animal protein, giving a P/A ratio of about 2.2. The huge increases over the 1960 figures are to be obtained by an increase of about 12 million tons of animal protein. This will depend on an increase of 5 to 10 times as much plant protein consumed by animals to produce the meat, milk, etc.

Thus economic and ecological factors all emphasise the importance of plant protein in helping to solve the world food problem. This is recognised in a recent (1967) report to the United Nations Economic and Social Council by the Advisory Committee on application of Science and Technology to Development.

IlI. - ESSENTIAL MINERALS AND VITAMINS

ALAN LONG, Ph.D., A.R.I.C., and FRANK WOKES, Ph.D., F.R.I.C.

Vitamins and minerals come mainly from plant foods. Vitamin C and provitamin A occur in significant amounts only in plant foods. Carrots, green leafy vegetables and various fruits are exceptionally rich sources. The yields per acre may be over 100 times as great as from animal foods.

B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavine) occur in seeds, especially the germ, in leaves and in yeast. The yields per acre are more than 10 times those from animal foods.

Vitamins B12 and D do not occur naturally in staple plant foods but can be obtained quite cheaply from the plant kingdom and added to these foods. Vitamin D can also be produced in useful amounts during sunbathing.

Calcium, lacking in meat, can be obtained from certain leafy vegetables, the yields per acre being several times those from milk. Iron, lacking in meat and milk, is found in high concentration in various leaves and seeds. The yields per acre range from 10 to over 100 times those in animal foods.

Infestations, poor storage of crops, prejudice and a lack of educa-tion in food matters are the main obstacles to full utilization of the nutritive values of plant foods, especially in the tropics.

Incaparinas, successful processed plant foods developed for com-bating famine, are providing, quite cheaply, adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals as well as proteins and other essential nutrients. The Central Food Technological Research Institute (Ce.F.T.R.I.) in India is also engaged in this important work of producing processed plant foods of high protein content and rich in vitamins and minerals, all obtained from the plant kingdom.

IV. - THE INTERNATIONAL BIOLOGICAL PROGRAMME

DR. A. A. WOODHAM, Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen

Preliminary proposals to establish an International Biological Programme analogous to the International Geophysical Year, were made in 1961 and the first General Assembly of the I.B.P. was held in 1965. There are seven groups: -

PT - Productivity of Terrestrial Communities.
PP - Production Processes.
CT - Conservation of Terrestrial Communities.
PF - Productivity of Fresh Water Communities.
PM - Productivity of Marine Communities.
HA - Human Adaptability.
UM - Use and Management of Biological Resources.

The programme has been divided into two phases - a planning phase which ended in June, 1967, and a definitive phase which is expected to last for a further five years. During the planning phase various projects have been formulated and approved by the General Assembly. The advantages of participation in the T.B.P. are firstly that approval is expected to assist the applicant in obtaining funds from a grant-giving body. The I.B.P. itself has no funds available for instigating research. Secondly, the I.B.P. will further contacts between biologists and this in practice has been found to assist for example in the collection of samples for research.

Nutritional projects are included mainly under Sections HA and UM. The HA programme embraces growth and physique studies with the assessment of nutritional status and in the U.K. is contributing projects concerned with the quality of plant protein under section UM. The Tropical Products Institute is carrying out work on the better utilisation of coconut meal and cassava while the Rowett Research Institute is concerned with groundnut and cereals.

At the Rowett Institute a range of groundnuts of different varieties and grown under different environmental conditions has been collected and these are being examined fro differences in nutritional value. Protein isolates of good amino-acid composition have been prepared from groundnuts and from barley and these are being assessed by means of growth experiments with animals and by laboratory tests.