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International Year of Pulses – For a Healthy, Hunger-free and Sustainable World (PCN Summer 2015) JUL 2 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Allison Ammeter, Chair of IYOP Canada and Alberta Pulse Growers

Ever since the United Nations declared that 2016 would be the International Year of Pulses (IYOP), the pulse world has been busy brainstorming, budgeting, and planning ways to take advantage of such a momentous opportunity.

IYOP aims to increase awareness of pulses—the dry, edible seeds of pea, bean, lentil, or chickpea plants. Canada is a global leader in pulse production, with over 30 per cent of world pea production and 40 per cent of world lentil production. Canada is the largest exporter of pulses in the world, exporting to over 150 countries. The Canadian pulse industry will use events, campaigns, websites and social media to ensure that by the end of 2016, more people know what pulses are, how they can benefit from them, and why they are important in Canada.

The hope is that through IYOP, pulses will be positioned as a source of protein and other essential nutrients, so the Global Pulse Confederation chose four thematic areas to focus on:

1. Food and Nutrition Security and Innovation – Focusing on the health and nutrition benefits of pulses.

Pulses are high in protein, fibre, and vitamin content; they have a low glycemic index; they’re glutenfree and generally non-allergenic; and their flour or puree can be used to improve the nutritional content of many existing food products.

Pulses as part of a healthy balanced diet have been shown to have an important role in preventing illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

In a nation such as Canada, promoting daily pulse consumption can be a cost-effective and sustainable solution for families, to improve their overall health.

2. Productivity and Environmental Sustainability – Focusing on the environmental benefits of growing pulses.

Pulses are an important component of crop rotations, as they require less fertilizer than other crops and can fix their own nitrogen. This helps improve the yield of future crop rotations.

Pulses also improve the soil quality by feeding soil microbes, which helps crops to thrive and offers greater protection against disease-causing bacteria and fungi. New research in breeding and agronomics will continue to improve our pulses, adding to these environmental benefits.

3. Market Access and Stability – Ensuring pulses can be grown and marketed locally and internationally, with maximum safety and minimal restrictions.

4. Creating Awareness – The International Year designation creates a large and unique opportunity to increase awareness of pulses.

In many countries, there is little public knowledge of pulses, their attributes, or their ability to contribute to increased food security and environmental sustainability.

IYOP International

These theme areas will guide activities internationally, nationally, and locally. The following is a sampling of the IYOP activities in the works for over 30 countries:

  • In November, pulses will be featured prominently at the Scientific Symposium on Pulse Nutrition and Health, hosted by the Sackler Institute at the New York Academy of Sciences. This is a health and nutritional event targeted at UN agencies, health related non-governmental organizations and research foundations. There will be a strong focus on sustainability and food security, and there is a planned Annals Publication for the New York Academy of Science to come from this event.
  • In February, there will be a Pulse Conclave in India. Organized by trade, one of the interesting aspects of this event is that it will feature a food product development competition.
  • In March, the Pan African Legume Conference will be held in Zambia. Associated with USAID (United States Agency for International Development), it will focus on pulses, food security, and production issues in Africa.
  • In October, the United Nations World Food Day Celebrations will occur in Rome, with a major focus on the role of pulses in improving global food security.

Along with these activities happening at an international level, there are many initiatives occurring within countries. For example, Brazil has developed “Projeto Mais Feijão”, or “Project More Beans”. This program will work with school children in Curitiba, teaching them about the benefits of pulses. Not just an IYOP event, this is intended to become a permanent activity aimed at fighting junk food consumption amongst children. The project will prepare teaching materials, and work with education departments and schools to ensure that the message is heard by Brazilian youth.

In Japan, pulses were on display at the FOODEX convention in March, promoting 34 kinds of pulses to 77,000 visitors from 83 countries. An award–winning chef prepared dishes along with a pulse farmer from the north of Japan, where the majority of that country’s pulses are produced.

IYOP Canada

Canada’s focus is to increase consumer awareness of pulses, as well as to increase their use in food processing and manufacturing. This effort involves Pulse Canada, Alberta Pulse Growers, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, Ontario Bean Growers, Canadian Special Crops Association, Farm Credit Canada, Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – all partnering to make IYOP a success.

The first official Canadian event will be the IYOP launch in Toronto on January 6, 2016. This kick-off event will draw in Canadian media, food companies and chefs. Simultaneously, other countries – ideally one from each time zone – will hold national IYOP launches.

An international pulse brand will be launched alongside IYOP. A major advertising firm was hired to design a brand and tagline. This brand will be launched in November, with the hope that it will eventually appear on all products containing pulses in stores around the world—improving the consumer’s ability to choose well.

In addition to the brand, the Canadian committee has been developing videos that can be shown at all types of food and nutrition events, and incorporated into websites.

A website is also being developed that will provide information about events and activities going on in North America as part of IYOP. Internationally, will keep you up-to-date on all pulse-related news.

One exciting project that Canada has on the go is a collaboration with the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum first in Ottawa. They are developing an interactive pulse exhibit that the Canadian IYOP committee plans to have displayed in Ottawa, then moved around the country to reach as many consumers as possible in high-impact locations, like summer exhibitions, airports, and large shopping malls in 2016 and beyond.

This exhibit will be displayed in two of Canada’s innovative institutions. CIGI (the Canadian International Grains Institute) and POS Biosciences are developing a two-part course aimed at food processing companies. Together, these courses are designed to increase the knowledge of product development professionals in the food industry, focusing on milling, extrusion, fractionation, and wet processing. Over two, three-day training events, they will give technical information on engineering and economics on the usage of pulses in any food product.

To reach as many health professionals as possible with the message of the benefits of pulses in a healthy, balanced diet, we will record a “lunch and learn webinar” presentation with Dr. John Sievenpiper, a consultant physician at St. Michael’s Hospital, and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, whose main research includes pulses. His presentation will highlight the latest research related to pulses and obesity, blood pressure, glycemic response, satiety and cholesterol, including an overview of minimum effective doses, magnitude of effect, food forms, and duration of research studies. This webinar will be shown in about 20 teaching hospitals in major cities across Canada in conjunction with a pulse-based lunch and Q & A session.

Culinary promotion is an exciting opportunity. We are holding discussions with Master Chef Canada, as well as several other food media companies to see how they might be able to feature pulses.

All partners are of one mind that pulses can be a very economical, nutritious staple in the Canadian diet. We will be working with local food security organizations—such as community kitchens and cooking clubs—to develop a pulsebased resource kit which will feature simple recipes, cooking tips and interesting facts about the history of pulses and their health/environmental benefit. This kit will be distributed to interested organizations across Canada for use within their programming, to help Canadians improve their overall health and cooking skills.

A group in the United Kingdom has spent a great deal of time developing six lesson plans aimed at schoolchildren aged 9-11 years. The lessons cover topics such as cooking with pulses, pulse consumption around the world and the health benefits of pulse consumption. The plan is to introduce them at teachers’ conventions, so that educators will know they can download them to use in their science, health, or food units.

There is much more that I could say about IYOP. It’s an exciting time to be part of the pulse industry, and the plan through IYOP, and all the international and Canadian activities, is to let the world know that pulses are the future of food.