Novel Food Practices and the Environment
Food is an essential requirement. We all agree on this. Food is the source of our energy. Having a good meal is scientifically proven to combat stress, anger, and disease. It provides nutrition, increases productivity, steers one away from bad habits, instilling peace and security. It also has the ability to remove unfamiliarity amongst strangers. It is a well-known proverb that, ‘A family that eats together, stays together’. No matter how much we talk about the significance of food for humans and animals alike, words fall short to elucidate its worth.
Food for all
India, to maintain its population of more than a billion and feed them at the same time, has introduced numerous schemes and yojnas like Integrated Child Development Services (October 2, 1975), Midday Meal Scheme (August 15, 1995), Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojna (September 25, 2001), and National Food Security Mission (2007 for 5 years) etc. These aim to reduce incidences of malnutrition, undernourishment and diseases in children (1-6 years), mothers, and the general population. Another novel directive was started in 2011 known as India GAP (GAP-Good Agricultural Practices). It is a set of standards that ensure safety of food reaching Indians. Farmers, producers and even tradesmen have to register for this regulatory standard and inspections, surprise as well as planned, are held to safeguard health of people consuming food products from specified areas.
Food security and safety
To provide food for the growing population, apart from schemes, many novel ideas for increased growth of food crops have been initiated in India. These include food enhancers, GM (genetically modified) crops, and increased fertilizer use. Every person living and breathing knows that our environment is what sustains us. It links us closely to every other living creature anywhere on the planet. A web of linkages exists around us and a small aberration in any string can easily be vibrated throughout the intra-planetary network.
Introduction of xenobiotics, i.e. substances that did not exist in the environment and have been created by artificial means with high potential for ecological damage, like herbicides or pesticides, greatly diminish the self-sustaining ability of our ecosystem. These cannot be properly disintegrated by nature. Distribution of pesticides, herbicides, organophosphates, chemical fertilizers at a cheap rate have inflated side-effects to our environment. And to state the truth, these potentially harmful results are not alien to us. One we have all heard about is bio-magnification, a process that involves increase in concentration of harmful substances when these travel up the food chain. The sequence that follows with the introduction of these xenobiotics into our ecosystem is shown below:
Introduction of Xenobiotic
Accumulation in fatty tissues
Retention inside the body
Incorporation into higher levels through food chains
Biomagnification as biomass of top carnivores increases
This flowchart showcases the harmful impact of introducing chemicals into our environment, even if for enhancing agriculture. It is because in a short span of time, the same augmenters would destroy plant and animal life on this planet, reducing biodiversity and causing human extinction. This is the fate which follows.
An example for such a catastrophe can be found in India as well. The case is of Diclofenac, which was instituted as a pain killer and anti-inflammatory drug for cattle. It biomagnified in the environment and led to endangering the Indian vulture species. It is important to understand that these vultures will not be the only species facing extinction if xenobiotic use is continued. For making food available to everyone, the government has to adopt strategies and ideas that cater to the problem without creating new, more harmful ones.