Obesity is the developing world’s new burden. Along with changes in lifestyle, youngsters also remain unaware of how food is grown. Disassociation with agriculture could be the cause and the effects are serious.
The world is facing an unforeseen problem: the young is getting increasingly disassociated with agriculture and the knowledge of how the food is grown. The new generation has little idea on the need to practice sustainable agriculture and the need to keep a healthy diet. Growing obesity is the result of this disconnection and it has emerged as the biggest threat to the human race.
This is truer of the fast developing Asian countries like India than the West. In the Indian context it is not just the alienation of the young generation from agriculture but the fraudulent way the rich snatch farm lands from unorganised farmers that constitutes a bigger problem.Worldwide, 30 per cent of food is wasted, 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night while another 1 billion suffer from health problems related to obesity, and agriculture contributes to a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
In response to these problems, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) is releasing a report, Eating Planet, highlighting the challenges faced by today’s food and agricultural system, as well as the myriad benefits that reform could bring. As World Environment Day approaches, it is important to appreciate the linkages between technology, culture, and agriculture, and how they can alleviate hunger and poverty.
“Access to food is one of the first and most fundamental of all human rights,” says Guido Barilla, Chairman of the Barilla Group. “Where food is lacking, it becomes impossible to live with dignity, and the rights to a healthy life and peaceful coexistence are undermined.”
“The study’s conclusions represent a major step toward ensuring that agriculture contributes to health, environmental sustainability, income generation, and food security,” said Nourishing the Planet project director Danielle Nierenberg. “The ingredients will vary by country and region, but there are some key components that will lead to healthier food systems everywhere.”
The report is divided into four sections: Food for All, Food for Sustainable Growth, Food for Health, and Food for Culture.
Food for All: Agriculture directly contributes to food security among the world’s poorest populations, and reforms to the sector are badly needed to reduce both poverty and hunger. These include reinforcing the mechanisms of global governance, such as curbing the trade of food-related stocks to lessen price volatility; encouraging the use of new approaches and tools to measure and promote well-being, in part by shifting away from Gross Domestic Product as a primary indicator of national development; and fostering eating habits that are healthier for humans and have a lower environmental impact.
Food for Sustainable Growth: While many agricultural activities, such as artificial fertiliser application or heavy pesticide use, may boost food production in the short term, they create serious obstacles to feeding the world over the long term. Environmental degradation, including water scarcity, soil depletion, and deforestation, are all results of the industrialised agricultural system, and these problems seriously compromise future generations’ prospects of well-being. Part of achieving sustainable well-being involves an understanding of the environmental impacts of different types of foods. To facilitate this understanding, the BCFN has devised the Double Food and Environmental Pyramid. This pyramid, a new take on the traditional food pyramid, links the nutritional aspects of different types of food with their environmental impacts, to promote environmentally conscious and responsible food choices.
Food for Health: The global food system also affects issues of human health, including incidences of disease, malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes. The report notes several unhealthy changes in dietary and lifestyle patterns, including an increase in calories consumed, a lack of balance and diversity in diets, a lack of education about health and nutrition early in life, and a significant reduction in the amount of time dedicated to physical activity.
Food for Culture: The report emphasises the need to reconnect people with producing, obtaining, preparing, and eating their food. This involves the transfer of knowledge from older to younger generations about the production and preparation of food, the return to a healthy relationship with and appreciation of the land on which they are living.
About the Author (Author Profile)
PK Surendran is senior editor at Postnoon.