Abundant foods and adjusted imbalance

Oct 5, 2023

The commodification, commercialization of farm products and climate unsuitability to produce certain crops sufficiently have forced us to change our eating habits. Today, everyone has more than enough varieties of pulses and grains in our store rooms. Posters, trailers and flyers ‘enlighten’ us to have new variants of pulses and grains, which our healthier elder generation never had. We have developed a better taste for something we do not need nor are cultivable in our regions. Yet, we see no ecological imbalance in it!

We have countless lessons about impending disasters from climate change and threats to traditional agriculture. Crop losses due to drought and flood are annual routines. Still, our farmers produce more than sufficient food because they are lucky to have new-generation seeds that can grow in hostile weather conditions. Big farmers constantly change the crops grown on their land according to the commercial prospects seen in the agri commodity exchanges.

On the other side, we talk about climate crises non-stop. In our busy engagements to find mitigation remedies, contributing further to global warming and planning broadly to rebuild a sustainable ecosystem, we have forgotten about the hands that confined us to some select grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables. The staple pulses are now commodities built on trillions of worth of business. That means an astonishing shift of human habits from what nature rendered to business-controlled stems from the process of reckless commercialisation of food crops. That also triggers a change in people’s food habits or eating patterns.

Today, we eat not necessarily what our organic ecosystem has set for us but the packs the business environment keeps ready for us. We eat the pulses, not all of which are locally grown or cultivable. Those pulses are not always necessary for our sustenance under the native climate. Some pulses have entered the kitchen of households with better purchasing after trailers and flyers of vested interest for demand escalation. Research studies about food habits and protein sources finally come down to promoting some pulses, which are not necessary or only replacements for traditionally consumed popular pulses. 

Eventually, we drastically shifted our food habits and curtailed down to depend on commercially active food crops. In some cases, we have widened our menu of meals by including some grains, which are not necessary but orientated by inducements. This may have happened because of a business orientation on the most predominant staple grains and pulses.

In the business orientation process, some foods that were necessary health-supporting items disappeared from the local environment. The influence of modern economics has been deep and broad. An average Indian farmer feeds more than 150 people even while farming on low acres. The number has increased over 50 years. That is one of the advantages of the commodification of some food products, although there is a disadvantage to farmers’ shift from farming traditional crops to more commercially popular crops.    

Interestingly there have been plenty of micro-level studies about Indian food habits with hair-splitting analyses of the percentage of grains, pulses, meat, fat and other protein sources like eggs and dairy. Every promotion of food crops, diet recommendations and intake advisory according to the ultimate interest of those who spend money on preparing the research report resulted only in higher calorie intakes and health deterioration.

Now we live with erratic weather and try to find a way to survive. It is a big challenge for food cultivation. But our agro scientists and biotechnologists will burn the midnight oil to discover new variants that can outsmart the erratic weather and grow to give high yields in all extreme climatic conditions. This is the shortest way to stem the rot of climate change – maybe one of the best measures to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change. People will have to adjust to the new environment. I am sure our economic planners, business strategists and commodity czars will drive the environment and take people together to change their habits of eating – perhaps eating more variety of foods.