UPSC MAINS 2020: The future of food is animal-friendly

Topic : The future of food is animal-friendly

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: Indian Society

 Context:

Feeding about 10 billion people by 2050 with our current agricultural practices is almost impossible. human mind has found a solution, which is to increase the production of healthy and nutritious plant-based meat and innovate the technology to manufacture “cultivated meat”, also called clean meat. 

Background:

Problems with Our food system:

  • Our current food system puts undue pressure on our resources.
  • For ex: Amazon rainforest burn mainly as a result of action by cattle ranchers and loggers.
    • Ranchers set fire to the forests so that they can be used for cattle grazing. Cattle ranching is responsible for 80% of the destruction of the Amazon.
    • In India too, our forests are being overgrazed by buffaloes and goats which are used for dairy or meat.
    • greenhouse gas emissions from the meat industry are high.

Problems of the meat industry

  • Our food system is extremely inefficient as we feed grains to cows, goats and chickens and then eat the animals.
  • So, in essence, for every 9 calories of food fed to a chicken we get 1 calorie back. Despite efforts, 34.7% of Indian children suffer malnutrition.
  • The meat industry wastes a tremendous amount of water too — about one-third of the world’s water consumption is for producing animal products.
  • Niti Aayog has predicted that 21 major cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad are going to hit zero groundwater levels by 2020.
  • Antibiotics are used in livestock and poultry feed.
  • The World Health Organization has said that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
  • The greatest casualty of the meat industry are the animals which are crammed into farms, face extreme cruelty during their lives and are inhumanely slaughtered.
  • As our incomes rise, meat consumption will increase and the pressure on our resources will augment. Despite the increased meat production, we will continue to be a food-insecure nation. 

Ways to overcome problems with food system.

The human mind has found a solution, which is to increase the production of healthy and nutritious plant-based meat and innovate the technology to manufacture “cultivated meat”, also called clean meat

What is clean Meat?

  • Clean meat is grown in a lab from a small sample of cells taken from an animal. 
  • Both plant-based meat and clean meat are free of the negative externalities that animal meat production is responsible for, such as climate change.
  • It is also healthier as it is free of antibiotics. 

Companies:

  • Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are the biggest companies in this sector.
  • Beyond Meat makes burgers from pea protein and had an extremely successful IPO this year when it listed on the NASDAQ.
  • The Indian company Good Dot has just opened six eateries in Mumbai and makes everything from a burger to plant-based kheema pav. 

Advantages:

  • India’s population can benefit from making plant-based and clean meat available.
  • India is uniquely poised to be a leader in this sector as crops such as millets, ragi, pulses and chickpeas which grow here are ideal raw ingredients for plant-based meats.
  • It has envisioned the world’s first centre of excellence for clean meat.
  • This sector can alleviate the climate impact of the meat industry, augment farmers’ incomes, combat malnutrition and spare the lives of billions of animals.

   Sample Question:

India’s population can benefit from making available plant-based and clean meat. Comment