Over the past years, India has made huge strides in its journey towards food security, from fortified rice to PM POSHAN mid-day meals. However, according to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’, 2020 report, about 190 million Indians are undernourished, comprising 14 per cent of our total population. In the Global Food Security Index 2021, India ranks 71st out of 113 nations.
Changing the narrative –
- While India continues to focus on changing these statistics, there is also a need to change the narrative and the immediate action plan to achieve nutrition security over food security.
- Food security is defined as the availability and the access of food to all people; whereas nutrition security demands the intake of a wide range of foods that provides the essential nutrients.
- The problem, therefore, that India needs to focus on in the next 25 years is nutrition security — shifting the focus from quantity to the quality of diets.
What is the issue?
- The major issue relating to India’s nutrition security has been below the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) intake of micronutrients and proteins.
- Suboptimal protein consumption has resulted in stunting and wasting in children and issues like muscle loss, low immunity, and slow healing of wounds in adults.
- Anaemia is among the most common micronutrient deficiencies, primarily due to iron deficiency but could also be due to protein deficiency as well as folic acid and B12 deficiencies.
Low protein intake –
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), an average adult should consume 0.8-1 gm of protein per kg of body weight every day. However, data also indicate that the average Indian adult consumes closer to 0.6 gm, thereby not meeting the daily protein requirement. The per capita consumption of pulses/legumes was about 50 per cent of the recommended intake, even in high-producing districts.
What is the cause of imbalanced diet?
- The domination of staple grains such as rice and wheat has prevented diversity in Indian diets and the intake of other nutrients, which are crucial for balancing body functions.
- Typical Indian diets have 50 per cent grains and tubers, only 9 per cent meat/pulses and 17 per cent dairy.
- Several surveys by the National Nutrition Monitoring Board (NNMB) have shown that Indian diets derive almost 60 per cent of their protein from cereals, which have relatively low digestibility and low quality due to the absence of certain essential amino acids.
What needs to be done?
- The time is ripe to grow nutritional awareness towards affordable yet nutritious food choices and to leverage food science and innovation to reshape India’s food environment by diversifying food sources.
- Developments in food processing technology and genetic engineering play an important role in making a wide variety of foods available year-round in palatable, nutritious, and aesthetically packaged forms.
- Genetic modification, technologically advanced methods of improving soil fertility, and increased procurement of smart proteins can help increase the availability of nutritious food. Genetic modification can help increase yields and improve the quality of existing plant proteins in terms of digestibility, essential amino acid content and bio fortify foods.
The time has come when it is not sufficient to show a marginal decrease in the markers like stunting as improvements but to boldly use these safe and efficient technologies in agriculture and animal husbandry to bring a massive change in quantity and quality of foods with more and better nutrition. Malnutrition that still exists despite 75 years since Independence cannot be solved unless we adopt established, safe, and effective GM and GE technologies. Where the mind is without fear is where problems have solutions.
Source – The Hindu Business Line
QUESTION – India has achieved food security but the time is ripe for it to move forward towards ensuring ‘nutrition security’. Comment.