Chennnai: Averring that dependence on a handful of crops would result in loss of agro-biodiversity, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu urged people to draw inspiration from the country's past in sustaining environment and opting to eat seasonally and locally available food, as well. While asking the people not to get carried away by advertisements promoting western food like pizza and burger, he said millet-based meals are highly nutritious.
“The Indian way of life dictated eating seasonal and locally available food. Our traditional food systems were healthier and much more balanced from the nutrition point of view. Millet-based meals consumed extensively in rural areas all over India are extremely nutrient rich,” he stressed. The Indian practice of eating seasonal and locally available food was endorsed by the traditional Indian systems of medicine. “The practice also decreases ecological footprint by reducing the energy requirements in processing, packaging, storing and transportation of food which is non-local and non-seasonal,” he said.
He was speaking at the inaugural of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), held here on Wednesday under the aegis of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The Vice President said our traditional food systems evolved over centuries have proved to be healthier and more balanced from the nutrition point of view.
Pointing out that the concern for environment is not new to India, Venkaiah said Indian emperor Ashoka, the great, was the first to ban sacrifices, sport hunting and burning of forests. “He also established through a royal proclamation, what is perhaps the first, formally established, state protected area for mammals, birds and fish,” he said and added that historically, conservation of nature and natural resources was an innate aspect of the Indian psyche and faith, reflected in religious practices, folklore, art and culture permeating every aspect of the daily lives of the people.
“That's why I always say nature, culture together for better future of the country. We must always protect and promote nature… we have witnessed the devastating floods in Chennai (in 2015). This is a grim reminder of what should not happen,” he said. Further, the Vice President expressed deep concern over the homogenization of food habits and increased dependence on a handful of crops, resulting in a rapid decline of agro-biodiversity. “About 80 % of food supply is based on a few crops such as rice, wheat, maize and millets. The loss of diversity in diets is directly linked to life-style diseases as well,” he warned.
“A grave challenge we face today is the destruction of forests and the loss of species,” he said and expressed concern over the loss of trees at an unbelievable pace due to deforestation, urbanisation, industrialisation, besides pollution. He called for efforts aimed at sustainable initiatives that mandate the efficient and frugal use of available natural resources including biodiversity. Anil Kumar Jain, chairman NBA, Purvaja Ramachandran, secretary, NBA, and Hans Raj Verma, additional chief secretary, TN government, also participated....