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Earthbound

The Hidden Hunger

(Inspired and developed from a programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4)

It is not uncommon to hear people of our parents’ generation say that the quality of food we eat has deteriorated.  Our grandparents’ generation lived a long life and had a strong immune system because arguably they had an active life style.  It could be true that their rice grain was heavier than ours.

Increasing use of chemical fertilizers to enhance crop productivity is perceived to have decreased the fertility of the soils world over.  We are aware of NPK fertilizers, which have become indispensable these days.  Occasionally, we have seen farmers adding elements such as boron (especially for fruit cultivation) if the soil is diagnosed to be deficient in that.

Elements such as boron, iron, and  magnesium are essential for plant growth however are required in very low amounts.  Hence, they are called the micro nutrients (minerals).  To meet the ever increasing demand, we have generated many high yielding hybrid varieties of crop plants.  Often, the yield is estimated as the number of grains per plant (more the better), area utilized to grow (lesser the better) and in some cases the sugar and protein content of the food grain. Indirectly, this is believed to have led to a “micro nutrient dilution” in the food we eat today.  Researchers have reliably quantified the average decrease in mineral content in food grains (since early 20th century) to be around 20%, which is staggering.

The use of chemical fertilizers may have played a role however, the selection of hybrids is also proving to be equally critical.  100 years ago, 100 g of rice may have taken more land to cultivate and may have had less amount of carbohydrates.  However, it was rich in all the minerals essential for a healthy human body.

More and more evidences in support of worsening food quality are accumulating everyday and they should make both scientists and farmers to re-think their current breeding and cultivation strategies.

About CanTHeeRava

I am CanTHeeRava (ಶ್ರೀಕಣ್ಠ ದಾನಪ್ಪಯ್ಯ) from Bangalore (ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು), INDIA. Areas of my training and interests include Sciences, Indian Classical (Carnatic) Music, Languages, Poetry (Kannada and English), Test Cricket, and Educational & Political Reform

Discussion

6 thoughts on “The Hidden Hunger

  1. The language you have used to present your ideas could have been more reader friendly. It has more technical words which could have been avoided in several places. Be it Kannada, English or any other language, the expression counts! If you have written this for an educated, technically sound reader, you have hit bang on target. But, if your reader is an everyday Joe, he wouldn’t read beyond the first paragraph. Start the ideas in simple terms and slowly build on them. Write more to evolve…

    Posted by Geetha K.G. | October 3, 2009, 22:31
  2. hey, thats why they sell mineral water! To make up for this shortage of minerals in food!😉😀 Maybe this shortage of minerals in my childhood food resulted in the shortage of my height!😉

    Posted by kuLpaddu | October 3, 2009, 23:14
    • kuLLugaLoo, mineralugaLoo mattu paddu!! (loose thara ide alwa eee taitallu?)

      Unfortunately, Dr C R Chandrashekhar did not suggest anything in his article about mineral water.
      Avaru tamma adhyaayakke, neerugaLu-mineralgaLu mattu chikitse antha hesariduttiddarEnO!!

      Posted by danappiah007 | October 6, 2009, 16:05
  3. ಅದೆಲ್ಲಾ ಏನೂ ಬೇಡ. “ಕುಳ್ಳುತನ ಪದ್ದುಗಳು ಮತ್ತು ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆ” ಯಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ಚಾಪ್ಟರ್ ಮಿನೆರಲ್ಸ್ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಸೇರಿಸಿದರೆ ಆಯಿತು! ಅದು ಚಿಕಿತ್ಸೆಯ ಭಾಗ ಅಷ್ಟೇ! 😀

    Posted by kuLpaddu | October 6, 2009, 19:06
  4. That’s a nice article.you remember once we discussed about Andhra former CM’s suggestion to Farmers.”The story of ‘Crop Change'”.He wanted to implement the “Shortcut” exactly as you mentioned in this article. But the Farmers didn’t like SHORTCUTS. I believe- ” We cannot Shortcut Nature”

    Posted by Srinivasa raju | October 9, 2009, 16:53
    • You are right Raju. Our efforts to shortcut-nature’s ways are not viable (or sustainable) simply because we are ‘short-lived’. We operate in the time scales of 20 to 50 years. Nature operates over thousands and millions of years

      Posted by danappiah007 | October 9, 2009, 17:43

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