Jan 3, 2013

Who would have thought: Drug crops can increase food security

  1. Gezon in a new published paper (December 2012) writes:
Khat is a bushy plant whose leaves are chewed for their stimulant effect. Although khat has been a boon to the local economy, a suspected disadvantage is that there has been a decrease of land dedicated to rice and vegetable crops. Concerns about khat stem from genuine issues of food security but also from a moral panic targeted at this recreational drug crop. The major finding is that a decrease in vegetable production has not been primarily caused by khat but instead by a decline in the market for vegetables and decayed local infrastructure supporting vegetable production and transport. We also found that most farmers prefer to grow food crops alongside their khat, and many grow khat on marginal lands. Furthermore, khat helps many individual farmers increase food security because of the income it provides. The general significance is to point out that drug crops have a unique place in discussions of food security because of both the high amount that buyers are willing to pay and because of public condemnation of recreational drugs.
I did not find the full paper online. 
About Khat:
Catha edulis, commonly called Arabian tea, khat, qat, gat, or miraa, is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Among communities from these areas, khat chewing has a long history as a social custom dating back thousands of years. Khat contains a monoamine alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. In 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence (less than tobacco or alcohol), although the WHO does not consider khat to be seriously addictive.[2] The plant has been targeted by anti-drug organizations like the DEA. It is a controlled or illegal substance in some countries, such as the United States, Canada and Germany, while its production, sale and consumption are legal in other nations, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. Source: Wikipedia

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