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Balancing climate change and global nutrition

  • Category
  • Published
    21st Oct, 2022


It is high time for India to develop technologies that not only fulfill food and nutritional needs but also addresses climate change.


How climate change impacts nutrition?

  • Climate change, agriculture and nutrition are intrinsically linked. Climate change impacts under-nutrition via following major pathways:
    • Degraded quality of foods consumed
    • Affected household food security
    • Food availability, costs, and overall calorie consumption
    • Affected agricultural yields, nutritional quality of crops
    • Environmental health and access to health services

How has the situation changed?

  • The global population in 1945 was a little less than 2.5 billion and was increasing at an annual rate of about 1.9 percent per annum.
  • Today, there are almost 8 billion people on this planet, and there is ample food to feed them.
  • Access to food at affordable prices, however, remains a challenge for a substantial segment of humanity.

Role of Science and Technology:

  • The world is able to produce so much food that the entire global population can be fed.
  • This speaks of the success of science and innovations in the agri-food space.
  • Countries that are guided by scientific knowledge and the spirit of innovation, instead of ideologies and dogmas, have produced ample food, even in deserts. For example, Israel.


Examples of science, technology, and innovation

Biotic stresses

  • Disease- or pest-resistant crops
  • Pest-resistant eggplant
  • Rust-resistant wheat varieties
  • Pesticides, Herbicides
  • Tilling machines
  • Spatial repellent for on-farm pests
  • Improved agronomic practices (for example, push-pull mechanisms)

Abiotic stresses

  • Salt-tolerant crops (for example, quinoa, potato)
  • Climate-resistant crops

Improving crop productivity

  • Conventional breeding
  • Tissue culture and micropropagation
  • Marker-assisted breeding
  • Advanced genetic engineering
  • Low-cost diagnostic toolkit for extension workers

Improving livestock agriculture

  • High-nutrient, low-cost animal fodder
  • Liquid nitrogen and low-cost alternatives for animal semen preservation
  • Low-cost diagnostic toolkits for livestock veterinarians
  • Tissue engineering for laboratory-grown animal products
  • Low-cost veterinary pharmaceuticals

Lack of water availability

  • Water storage technologies (subsurface water technologies, aquifers, ponds, tanks, low-cost plastic water tanks, natural wetlands, reservoirs)
  • Canal irrigation
  • Micro-irrigation technologies, drip irrigation, bubbler irrigation, microsprinkler irrigation
  • Water lifting (hand-powered mechanical pumps, treadle pumps, solarpower irrigation pumps, hydrogen-powered pumps, electric and fossil fuel pumps)
  • Planting technology for increased water efficiency
  • Rainwater harvesting mechanisms
  • Conservation agriculture, Portable sensors for groundwater detection


  • Synthetic and organic fertilizers
  • Zero or conservation tillage
  • Soil microorganisms
  • Natural nitrogen fixation

Food security and Indian past:

  • Two successive droughts in the mid-1960s brought the country literally to its knees for meeting the basic food requirement of its people.
  • India was forced to rely on PL 480 food aid from the USA and had to live from “ship to mouth”.
  • India soon realized such high dependence on others for food could lead to political compromises.

High-yielding varieties (HYV) of wheat:

  • High-yielding varieties (HYV) of wheat by Normal Borlaug and his team in CIMMYT, and Henry Beachell and GurdevKhush in rice at IRRI.
  • Normal Borlaug received the Nobel Prize for peace in 1970.
  • Borlaug envisioned setting up the World Food Prize, somewhat equivalent to the Noble Prize for Agriculture.

World Food Prize:

  • The World Food Prize is given every year on October 16 in a special ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Indians including M S Swaminathan, VergheseKurien, GurdevKhush, and Rattan Lal have been recipients of the prize.

The path towards self-reliant in food:

  • There seems to be a lack of sync between policies and technologies.
  • India needs to double or even triple its expenditure on agri-research.
  • This needs to go up preferably between 1.5 to 2 percent of the agri-GDP.
  • Climate smart food systems that engage producer and consumer decision making, which
    • improves production of food
    • minimizes losses
    • reduces green-house gas emissions from agriculture
    • implements adaptation strategies for the most vulnerable 

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