So Many Options, So Few Choices

Celebrating three decades of Pulse of the Planet, here’s a program from our archives.Ambience, Mexican fruitseller, GuadalajaraThe cries of a fruitseller in Guadalajara, Mexico. All over the world, at marketplaces like this one, you might think there would be an endless variety of produce. The fact is that, globally, peoples’ diets are limited to a relatively small number of foods. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Shultes: “Of the half million plants, man, on a global basis, has used as foods, even in time of famine, only some 3,000. Of these, only 150 have ever been important enough to enter the world commerce. And of these, man, as a global animal, lives on 12 or 13 species.” Dr. Richard Evans Shultes is Jeffrey Professor of Biology and the director of the Botanical Museum, at Harvard University, emeritus. Shultes: “There are three grains — rice, the most important, wheat, and corn. There are several roots or tubers — the white potato, the sweet potato, and cassava. There are several sources of protein — the common bean, the soybean, and peanuts. Then there are two sugars — sugar cane and sugar beet. Then there are banana and plantains and, of course in many parts of the world, coconut.” This small group of crops forms the core of most of the world’s diet. By contrast, Dr. Schultes estimates that as many as 200,000 different plants around the world have medicinal uses. Shultes: “Usually the foods are obvious, whereas most plant chemicals that could be used as medicines are hidden.”This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. Im Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

So Many Options, So Few Choices

Of the hundreds of thousands of species of plants in the world, humanity depends on only about a dozen species for food. This archival program is part of Pulse of the Planet's 30th anniversary celebration. Richard Evans Schultes (1915 - 2001) has been called the father of modern ethnobotany. His work inspired the film "Embrace of the Serpent".
Air Date:06/18/2018
Scientist:
Transcript:

Celebrating three decades of Pulse of the Planet, here's a program from our archives.Ambience, Mexican fruitseller, GuadalajaraThe cries of a fruitseller in Guadalajara, Mexico. All over the world, at marketplaces like this one, you might think there would be an endless variety of produce. The fact is that, globally, peoples' diets are limited to a relatively small number of foods. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Shultes: "Of the half million plants, man, on a global basis, has used as foods, even in time of famine, only some 3,000. Of these, only 150 have ever been important enough to enter the world commerce. And of these, man, as a global animal, lives on 12 or 13 species." Dr. Richard Evans Shultes is Jeffrey Professor of Biology and the director of the Botanical Museum, at Harvard University, emeritus. Shultes: "There are three grains -- rice, the most important, wheat, and corn. There are several roots or tubers -- the white potato, the sweet potato, and cassava. There are several sources of protein -- the common bean, the soybean, and peanuts. Then there are two sugars -- sugar cane and sugar beet. Then there are banana and plantains and, of course in many parts of the world, coconut." This small group of crops forms the core of most of the world's diet. By contrast, Dr. Schultes estimates that as many as 200,000 different plants around the world have medicinal uses. Shultes: "Usually the foods are obvious, whereas most plant chemicals that could be used as medicines are hidden."This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. Im Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.