Book suggests how to eat right in a climate-risked world

New Delhi: ‘How should we practice agriculture and food production in our climate-risked world, to ensure the security of livelihood, nutrition and nature? The book - The Future of Taste - and the ‘First Food’ series that it is a part of, give us some answers: by bringing us the color, essence and joy of a biodiverse food that is good for nutrition as well as for nature,’ said Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment.

Narain was speaking at the official release of CSE’s latest publication, First Food: The Future of Taste. The book was released by a galaxy of celebrity chefs and cuisineers, including Jatin Mallick, Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent, Manjit S Gill, and Rajiv Malhotra, Corporate Chef from Habitat World.

‘Local communities in India knew about millets much before they became fashionable. They know much more - about how to create healthy and nutritious recipes from a host of products available in and around us, from weeds, tree-borne foods and seeds which can be stored for long periods, to plants with short life cycles, and even those parts of cultivated plants that are generally wasted. This book brings together over 100 of these ‘non-mainstream’ recipes. These foods could turn out to be ideal for a world that is struggling with the ravages wrought by climate change,’ says Vibha Varshney, the conceptualiser and creator of the First Food series of books.

In 2018, about 11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions came from the food the world produced. While emissions from agriculture and food systems are a reality, Narain points out that there are two distinct agricultural worlds. ‘One, based on an intensive industrial model where food is manufactured in factory farms at a massive scale; and another which is subsistence level, practised by farmers in the developing world with small landholdings, who grow food for their livelihood. The agriculture and food production sector, thus, creates a divide between a world that emits for survival and one that emits for luxury. At a time when the survival of farmers is threatened across the world by climate change and other factors, we cannot go ahead with the intensive, luxury-emission-based model of food production,” she explained.

The book says that in such a scenario, it is the farms and food of ‘our world, of countries like India’ that will provide answers to the future. Among other things, the book recommends opting for crops that are both nutritive and compatible with the local environment. ‘For instance, where there is a water shortage, farmers should grow water-prudent crops such as millets. Government must enable policies that will promote the cultivation of these crops,’ says Narain.

The Future of Taste also recommends measures such as promoting multiple cropping to minimise risk; improving soil health by using non-chemical alternatives to fertilisers and pesticides; and encouraging low-input, cost-effective agriculture.