Much room for mushrooms in global diets

Huili Li and Asanka Bandara from CIFOR-ICRAF and Kunming Institute of Botany

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Small but mighty, mushrooms are packed with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein. As more consumers recognize the importance of sustainable food consumption, many are shifting to a plant-based diet, putting the spotlight on other sources of nutrients, including mushrooms. Yet, among thousands of available varieties of mushrooms, only a handful are well known and consumed around the world. To alleviate consumer concerns and potentially develop new sustainable mushroom food products, the global significance of edible mushroom species has been recently detailed in a high-impact publication by scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF). 

Indeed, people consume far fewer types of food since the agricultural revolution that happened more than 10.000 years ago. It is estimated that only 12 crops and 14 animal species provide 98 percent of the world’s dietary needs, with wheat, rice, and maize alone accounting for half of global calorie production, according to an article published by the Open Access Government 

To shed light on this often-overlooked food, this podcast will explore the world of mushrooms and how they can play a role in sustainable food production to provide nutrition and livelihoods. Worldwide, the mushroom industry is a booming business valued at more than $50 billion in 2019, with most production originating in China and the US. Yet, mushrooms are also highly stigmatized because of occurrences of poisoning. Therefore, classifying edible species can help assure purchasers that they are eating safe products. 

   Mushroom growing on a fallen log. Photo by James Maiden/CIFOR

Tune in to a discussion to mark World Food Day with CIFOR-ICRAF scientist Huili Li and Asanka Bandara from the Kunming Institute of Botany as they discuss the world of edible mushrooms and mushroom cultivation as part and parcel of sustainable livelihoods in rural communities of China, India and Myanmar.  

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