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Welcoming a New Paradigm on Food Transformation System at IRRI: Multi Stake Holder Panel Discussion

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan

Creating Sustainable Value chains for Transforming Food Systems ’ by IRRI was   a Multi stake-holder Panel discussion  that aimed to welcome a new paradigm on food system transformation, emerging from the concept of ‘planetary boundaries’ that define a ‘safe operating space’ for ensuring stability of the earth system as well as human health. 

IRRI has been transforming Food Systems for the past 60 years and at 60 they vow to go beyond Rice and help create Diversity in Food. Speaking at the discussion Dr Nafees Meah, IRRI Representative for South Asia said meeting the SDG’s in particular SDG2 is going to be a difficult journey with the scale of population India is growing at. However, more than 800 million people still have inadequate access to food –many of whom live in India.

More than half of the world’s population, including many of those living in poverty, rely on rice for most of their daily calories because they cannot afford – or do not have access to – nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy. As a result, malnutrition is a real threat, creating immediate and long-term health problems including stunting, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. 

In addition, a growing share of the world population suffers from micronutrient deficiencies or is overweight or obese, leading to an increasing prevalence of non- communicable diseases.  Keeping malnutrition away is going to be an arduous task and especially stunting. Prevalence of under 5 Stunting is a serious issue which needs to be tackled. The target should be to reduce stunting. India is battling with non-communicable diseases like diabetes and obesity too. The Rapid urbanization and the Western food influences have seriously aggravated this problem. Keeping all these issues in mind IRRI is bent on creating diversity in all fields which they are working to bring in a serious food transformation system and creating diverse thalis. They seek international and national commitment to shift towards promoting healthy diets.

The Key note address was given by Pawan Agagrwal, CEO, FSSAI. The discussion also saw Dr      Supreet Kaur, (Niti Ayog),Dr Purnima Menon, SRF (IFPRI), Dr Dinesh Kumar(NIN), Dr Arabinda Padhee (ICRISAT), Dr.A.K.Singh (IARI),Dr Alok Sikka(IWMI) Basanta Kar (Poshan Abhiyan)Ms Shariqua Yunus and Dr Sheetal Sharma discussing issues from Food Safety to Eat Right Campaign to healthy soils to water conservation measures.

Purnima Menon from IFPRI commented on how Dietary Diversity could help tackle Malnutrition and what will it take to change these dietary patterns. Basanta kar from Poshan Abhiyan spoke on seriousness of stunting issues in India. He spoke on the serious lapses of forming policies for good nutrition.  Consumer demand should be the most important thing that needs to be worked at. Dietary guidelines should be given to each district and the region specific thalis should be worked out and labeling of all high sugar, high salt should be done.

The best package of soil irrigation system   for crops should also be worked out to have good quality yields and production too. Dr A.K. Singh spoke on production system and technology which IARI is focusing on. He also spoke on schemes like NARI and KSHMATA schemes by IARI.

To help operationalize the food transformation system, one could develop and strengthen sustainable agricultural value chains with appropriate cropping and mixed livestock /fish systems tailored for specific agro ecologies in India and South Asia. In short to medium term fortification or biofortification of staple crops, especially with iron, zinc and beta carotene offers an interim solution for poor nutrition for vulnerable consumers. A Policy brief will be prepared of the outcomes and will be submitted to the government. 

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