The Society for Promotion of Science of Science & Technology in India (SPSTI), in association with Chandigarh Chapter of the National Academy of Sciences India (NASI) with support from Haryana State Council for Science, Innovation & Technology, Govt. of Haryana organised sixth lecture in the series ‘Environment Awareness’ on ‘World Population Day – July 11’. The lecture ‘Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Security: Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 3’ was organised on July 11, 2021 at 11.30 am through online mode. The session was attended by more than 142 participants on zoom and many viewed the same on the Facebook page of SPSTI.

The session steered with the introduction of the series by Prof. KeyaDharamvir, General Secretary, SPSTI, who welcomed the attendees and the speaker and gave a brief overview of various activities being organised by SPSTI to take science to every section of the people to strengthen the knowledge base to inspire and encourage younger generation to discover their talents in various field of science and technology and help them to excel in them. Prof. Arun Kumar Grover, Former Vice Chancellor of Panjab University and Vice President of SPSTI talked about World Population Day. Citing the work done by Indian scientists and A V Hill report, which was blueprint for the scientific research and all round development in India after the war ends, also mentions about the study of population, demographic and plan for provision for health and food for the growing population in India.

Prof. R. K. Kohli, Vice Chancellor, Amity University, Mohali and former Vice Chancellor,   Central University of Punjab, Bathinda talked about linkages between population and environmental issues. He said we are growing in number but it is at the cost of future generation and needs evaluation. Earth is the only planet where life exists, but human activities have continuously changing resource budget of planet earth and hence we are confronted with unplanned development, rapid industrialisation and unprecedented growth in population coupled with poverty and deprivation. Population is one of the important factors that is influencing the environment and this population is dependent on earth for food, clothing, house, energy, medicine, health care and education. We have consumed more resources in the last 50 years than humanity before us. He talked about protecting the atmosphere, land, ocean and coastal area, freshwater resources, biological resources, protecting human health and improving quality of life with environmentally sound management of biotechnology, toxic chemicals and hazardous waste. . He also shared certain solutions like to increase production to cater the need but not beyond the carrying capacity, conservation and protection laws which focus on the judicious use of resources and education and change in policy, which would slow or stop population growth, resulting in fewer people fighting for resources. He shared that the world needs to decouple the economy from growth and couple it with the environment.

Dr. R. Baskar, Environmental Studies Department of JGU Hisar introduced the speaker Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Navdanya, Global 500 Award of UN & Earth Day International & Awardee of Sydney Peace Prize. She has also received the Right Livelihood Award.

Dr, Shiva began her talk by sharing about her book on ‘The Violence of the Green Revolution, where she focused on why the farmers were discontent? What was the disconnection between the narrative of feeding the world and farmers saying they were living in slavery? The seeds were becoming intellectual property, and did not belong to farmers. The law was drafted that provided farmers’ the right to breed, save and sell the seeds. She also talked about the patent law, article 3(j) which says plants, animals and seeds are not human inventions and therefore they are not patent. She talked about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); SDG 2 which is zero hunger and SDG 3 for ensuring good health and well-being. She shared that the diversity in seeds helps to hold the nutrients and when this is overtaken by the uniformity for breeding the nutrient gets lost and as a reaction results in allergy. She talked about getting back to the indigenous varieties which are not only rich in nutrients but also help farmers to earn more. She said that in ecology everything is connected and will remain connected. She said the green revolution has been a mathematical trick played in terms of yield per acre but in the process the health of soil, environment, biodiversity, economic health of farmershave not been taken into consideration.

It is imperative that to save the seeds which have high potential, are climate resistant and nutritious. She emphasised growing the native varieties. Relating with population, she talked about hunger as a pandemic. Humans are part of earth and said if we harm earth we are harming ourselves. She shared that child and maternal malnutrition is responsible for 15% of India’s disease burden. India ranks 102 among 117 countries on the hunger index, and said initiatives must be taken on community level and should not be left only to the government. Diabetes and cancer have been increasing, with diabetes being the 7th leading cause of death. A population increase is related to alienation and destruction of resources, destruction of environment leads to population increase. She advocated that population issues must be seen in economic and ecological context. Citing data, she shared that before colonialism, the population of India was between 100-125 million for centuries. But, with the changed land laws after 1800 population started to increase with 130 million in 1845, 175 million in 1855, 194 million in 1867 and 255 million in 1871, and the globalisation has aggravated this population increase, posing challenges to control hunger and diseases.

She cited the example of Kerala where land reforms were done and uniform health and education rights were given which led to negative population growth. She shared how instead of calculating yield per acre, they calculated nutrition per acre and data shows with primitive varieties two times India’s population can be fed, in comparison with the chemical farming, which actually creates hunger. She advocated shifting from monoculture to biodiversity, chemical farming to organic farming, from centralised marketing to local markets. She shared that when food is grown chemically it loses its nutritional value and soil also loses its nutritional value. She shared the presentation showing various indigenous varieties of rice, spices, millets, vegetables, etc. She also shared that 80% of the world’s food comes from the 20-25% of small farmlands. One-third of the food comes from the pollinators, more biodiversity can double the production and biodiversity of soil has the ability to increase photosynthesis five times thereby increasing the food production and meeting the SDGs 3. She concluded by saying economy and environment are not in conflict, a true economy is a subsidiary of ecology.  She quoted Bahuguna that ecology is the permanent economy and ecological agriculture is the permanent food economy.

The session was much appreciated by the audience and followed with questions about how commoners access ancient grains for daily food intake, if organic farming can meet the requirements as there has not been much intervention in the productivity of the natural ways of dealing with agriculture, and many more. Shri DharamVir, IAS (Retd.) & President SPSTI, thanked the speaker as well as the attendees.

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