At a national conclave on food, organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) here, experts from across the country deliberated upon the pressing issues relating to the way food is produced and promoted in the country and its linkages with the growing burden of diseases.
Addressing the conclave, Director General of CSE Sunita Narain said: “Food is linked to nutrition, nature and livelihoods. We need strong regulations which can stop the ingress of chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics into our food and protect us against ‘bad foods’ high in fat, sugar or salt.”
The conclave focused on two broad themes -- sustainable food production and regulating bad food. Under these, panels of experts deliberated upon topics ranging from pesticide management, organic farming and use of antibiotics in food to labelling, claims and advertisements of ultra-processed packaged foods (junk foods).
The deliberations also covered food-related policies in view of the crisis of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Apart from policymakers and regulators from the Centre and some States, the delegates and panelists represented human health, animal health, agriculture, nutrition, research and academia, food industry, farmers and civil society.
Setting the context to the discussions, deputy director general at CSE Chandra Bhushan emphasised that with the growing NCDs and AMR crisis in the country, it is time that we made policies that enable big transition towards sustainable food production practices, with the emphasis on pesticides management, organic farming and controlling antibiotic use in food animals.
ACS, Health and Family Welfare, Kerala, Rajeev Sadanandan who is spearheading the efforts to contain AMR, elaborated on how the ‘Kerala Antimicrobial Resistance Strategic Acton Plan’ could be a model for other States in the country.
The CSE has consistently advocated a complete stop to the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in food animals.
Programme director of CSE’s food and toxins unit Amit Khurana said, “Animal use of antibiotics which considered critically important for humans should be phased out. All States should develop and implement their own action plans on AMR.”
Experts on pesticides emphasised on the need for a strong pesticides management bill that would ensure effective pesticide management across registration, sale and use.
The conclave also emphasised on the need for making ‘organic farming’ a mass movement Andhra Pradesh’s ‘Climate Resilient Zero
Budget Natural Farming programme, which has reportedly reduced farmers’ dependence on agro-chemicals, found a mention.
Bhushan pointed out that the draft regulations put out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on labelling and availability in schools are yet to be notified.
“The FSSAI must not continue to sit on these two crucial regulations related to labelling of ‘junk’ food and to guide schools on the food menu,” he said.