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Sustainable Development in Agriculture and Food Industry

Sustainable development:

Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services on which the economy and society rest on.

Sustainable development in the food industry/agriculture:

The food ecosystem as a system brings within its sphere several elements, involving and impacting- humans, the environment, infrastructure, and the economy, both, nationally and globally. Thus, the influence the food industry and agriculture have on the socio-economic and environmental scale is colossal.

A sustainable food system embodies a structure that harmonizes balance between ensuring food and nutrition security for everyone in a manner that the socio-economic and environmental resources crucial to engendering food security and nutrition for future generations are not jeopardized.

Sustainability in agriculture means the land and resources that use for agriculture today should be handed over to future generations in a sustainable arrangement so that they can continue to practice agriculture and have food security. This requires us to use water resources, lands, etc. in such a manner that future generation will also benefit from these resources.

Sustainable agriculture employs a method of growing crops for greater human utility through efficient utilization of resources without alarming, unbalancing, or polluting the environment. Sustainable agriculture is environmentally judicious, financially feasible, and socially fair and human.

The requirement of sustainability in the sphere of the food industry/ agriculture:

When we think of the food industry we often think of consumption. Whilst it is imperative to ensure sustainability in the manner of production and processing of food, it has concomitantly become increasingly important to acknowledge the growing crisis of the waste produced by the food industry and the repercussions of not using sustainable means for the production, processing, and disposal of the same. Sustainable development calls for a holistic approach in all the spheres to truly show compoundable gains.

70% of all the water use can be accounted to agriculture. Steadfast and adequate water supply is indispensable to both, food production and processing. As a result, all agricultural and food production and processing activities have an acute influence on water resources. The case is worsening with the added pressure from the food processing industries.

If the present consumption pattern continues, two out of every three persons on earth will live in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025”[1]. The waste generated by the food industry and agricultural activity is more detrimental because India is responsible for some of the world’s finest quality of spices, grains, rice, tea, etc., which can be associated with a staggering 46 soil variants in the country.

The absolute food grain production was projected at 292 million tonnes. It was also approximated that around 225-230 MT is required to nourish the country’s population annually. Despite these figures, it’s a disgrace that so many citizens are reeling under the grapples of acute hunger. Over 40 percent of food produced is wasted in India, and its costs could be as high as US$14 billion every year.[2]

The growth of meat consumption in the country has been exponential and the industry is largely controlled not by the Government but the market forces. The waste from slaughter and packaging houses although chemically comparable to domestic sewage are significantly severely concentrated. The prime deleterious effect of these wastes on water bodies is their deoxygenation. Chiefly, plastic packaging, the excessive use of water for production, and the lack of environment-friendly disposal mechanisms have a debilitating effect on the ecosystem.

20% of India’s GDP is contributed by agriculture. 11% of total exports are also accountable to agriculture. It enables employment to over 55% of India’s workforce and ensures livelihood guarantees to around 650 million people. It thus becomes all the more important to bring coherence and congruity between development, use of resources, consumption, and disposal.

The food sector faces crucial sustainable development concerns. Ironically, it suffers from and at the same time causes, environmental degradation, especially anthropogenic activities that contribute to climate change and deforestation. On one hand, it provides a livelihood to the farmers and on the other, it fuels land grabs that impair the community rights.

According to the Global hunger index 2020, not only India at the 94th position among 107 nations in terms of hunger but it continues to fall under the ‘severe hunger’ category. The study has also estimated that 14% of India's population is undernourished. Therefore, embodying a sustainable system of development will not only ensure environmental protection but also efficiency in food production which will help resolve the hunger and malnourishment issue of the country.

The constitution of India and the need for sustainability:

Article 21, the Constitution of India, 1950.
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law, nor shall any person be denied equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

Article 21 in a plethora of cases, like Subhash Kumar v.State of Bihar,[3] has been construed to bring within its purview the right to health and the right to live in a healthy environment. This can only be realized when we work and move in the direction of sustainable development in all aspects.

Article 38, the Constitution of India, 1950.
The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.

Article 48A, the Constitution of India, 1950.
The Directive Principles of State Policy stipulates that the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

India as a signatory to sustainable development goals:

India along with other countries signed the declaration on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, comprising of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the Sustainable Development Summit of the United Nations in September 2015.

Not only is it the constitution and the international commitment but several acts enacted to ensure environmental protection and sustainable development., including The Environment Protection Act, 1986, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, etc. The dire need for the conservation and protection of our environment through sustainable development and sustainable use of resources is not only embodied in our constitution but also reflected in the international commitments of India.

Under Part IV A - Article 51 A of the Constitution of India, casts a duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. Therefore, it is not only upon the government but on its citizen to aid and assist in sustainable development.

How the food and agriculture industry can be made sustainable?

Among the most effective measures in embracing sustainability in the food industry, improved efficiency in the use of resources, proper infrastructure in the disposal of agricultural waste and waste produced from the food industry along with improvement of the condition of workers and guaranteed fair wages will be pivotal. Responsible and effective governance, particularly in regards to the use and the protection of natural resources is indispensable.

It is vital to employ transformative policy measures in the agricultural sector chiefly aiming at maximizing productivity. It is also imperative to ensure climate resilience, reduction of greenhouse gases, resourceful land use, improved nutrition, betterment of market access, gender-sensitive agriculture production, among other things.

Ensuring the assisting environment for sustainable food systems to thrive will need system-based approaches that will evaluate the range and complexity of interactions that predominate in the production, distribution, and consumption of food. Also crucial is improved system resilience and responsible sourcing if long-term sustainability is to be ensured.

To supplement the system of food quality checks it is essential to have a comprehensive legal framework that facilitates the implementation of safety measures in an integrated manner. Food safety is imperative to achieve sustainable development therefore it is essential to ensure its assimilation in policies enacted to improve food security and nutrition levels.

The organisms that house in the soil are responsible for the absorption of excess nutrients, filtration of chemicals, and detoxification. In the absence of these organisms, the excess nutrients, the excess nutrients in the soil would otherwise become pollutants in reaching the groundwater. Maintenance of the soil structure and the use of agrochemicals can aid with the conservation of soil biota. This is aiming for improvement at the grass-root level. The compounded effects of this will thus help in the maintenance of a balanced ecosystem and assist sustainable growth.

When it comes to the food industry-main focus should be on the manner of production and processing, if these two steps are taken care of then disposal will not be that much of an issue. Ensuring sustainable means of production and processing.

Sustainability is a concept that should be all-pervasive and be implemented in all fields to ensure growth and the realization of all the sustainable development goals. It is crucial to note that all the 17 SDGs are integrated. Action or inaction in one is bound to have consequences on others. The Vellore Citizen Welfare Forum vs Union of India[4] was one of the first cases in which the Supreme Court of India had applied the doctrine of “sustainable development”. India has come a long way since then.

The nexus between food production, distribution, consumption, and nutritional health and the underlying social-economic, biophysical and institutional elements, ultimately affect the quantity, quality, and affordability of food, as well as health and wellbeing. It is saddening to note that since the adoption of the sustainable development goals; the issue of chronic malnutrition has worsened and yet there exists epidemics of obesity. If we do not take war footing measures at this time to ensure sustainable development, it will ensure catastrophic ecological consequences.

Achieve coherence between the natural system and agricultural production by man ensuring efficiency and not paralyzing the capacity of the future generations to secure their means of nutrition is still possible, provided we join hands in this collective venture of sustainable development.

End-Notes:
  1. The Global Environment Outlook report on the state of global environment.
  2. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate, 2019-2020.
  3. Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar, 1991 AIR 420, 1991 SCR (1)
  4. WP 914/1991 (1996.04.26)

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Adv.Ishani Vijaykumar Paradkar
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JU115410357315-3-0621

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