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261. Super Crop Quinoa—Impact of Quinoa Research in Solving Food and Nutrition Problems

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The Tokyo Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit will be held in December 2021, providing an opportunity to tackle various issues related to nutrition, and to discuss collective efforts to end malnutrition with nutrition officials from all over the world. The Tokyo Summit is calling for commitments to end malnutrition in all its forms under 5 thematic areas, namely, (1) Health: making nutrition integral to Universal Health Coverage for sustainable development; (2) Food: building food systems that promote safe, healthy diets and nutrition, ensure livelihoods of producers, and are climate-smart; (3) Resilience: addressing malnutrition effectively in fragile and conflict affected contexts; (4) Promoting data-driven accountability; and (5) Securing new investment and driving innovation in nutrition financing.

At JIRCAS, we are conducting research using quinoa, a native crop to the Andes of South America. Quinoa has an extraordinary nutritional balance and is becoming popular as a superfood all over the world. Since it can be cultivated in harsh environments such as drought, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is paying attention to quinoa as a crop that can be a trump card for solving global food and nutrition problems.

So far, JIRCAS deciphered the quinoa genome for the first time in the world in 2016, and subsequently revealed the diversity of quinoa lines in 2020. Furthermore, based on these results, we have succeeded in controlling the color of leaves and stems, height, and flower shape in quinoa by modulating the expression of quinoa genes. The development of this technology has made it possible to investigate the functions and roles of individual quinoa genes, paving the way to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the excellent nutritional properties and high environmental adaptability of quinoa. Based on these results, it is expected that improvement of quinoa, a super crop that has excellent nutritional characteristics and can adapt to harsh environments, will be accelerated not only in South American countries such as Bolivia, the country of origin, but also in more than 100 countries including Japan where quinoa cultivation is becoming widespread, and thereby contribute to global food security, nutrition improvement, and eradication of hunger (SDG 2 “Zero hunger”).

Press Release: Towards elucidating the gene function of super crop quinoa―Unravelling the mystery of excellent environmental adaptability and nutritional properties to accelerate crop improvement―
https://www.jircas.go.jp/ja/release/2020/press202007 (In Japanese)

Contributors: FUJITA Yasunari (Biological Resources and Post-harvest Division), KANAMORI Norihito (Research Strategy Office)

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