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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 1, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 32
Native Plants With Potential to Feed, Heal Bring Experts to CLF Conference

By Donna Mennit
School of Public Health

What kind of event brings together ginseng farming in Appalachia, ancient Native American foods to fight diabetes and obesity among the Tohono O'odhams, medicinal plant cultivation in India, fruit harvesting in South Africa and local tropical plants used as life-saving weaning supplements? That would be a conference titled "Underutilized Plants: Their Role in Preventive Medicine, Nutrition and Sustainability" to be held on Tuesday, May 2, at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The event, sponsored by the Center for a Livable Future, will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration is required (e-mail

"This is the first time JHU has created a forum to discuss how medicine and nutrition along with agricultural and botanical research can benefit underserved communities around the world," said Jed W. Fahey, a nutritional biochemist in the School of Medicine and one of the organizers of the event. "This conference will bring together a diverse group of specialists — plant scientists, health professionals and nongovernmental organizations — who use edible or medicinal plants in imaginative and powerful ways to empower communities and individuals."

The keynote speaker will be Noel Vietmeyer, National Academy of Sciences senior program officer from 1970 to 1994 and author of The Lost Crops of Africa and Underexploited Tropical Plants. Many of the poorest areas of the world are also home to an enormous variety of plants that are well adapted to local ecological conditions but are not currently used for food, medicine or trade. Vietmeyer's work emphasizes the untapped potential of the more than 2,000 indigenous African grains, vegetables, fruits and other foods that could feed a continent plagued by famine.


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