Mangal Pandey strategy for food and nutrition security
by Arun Shrivastava on 09 Jul 2014 10 Comments

We eat essentially to nourish our body and mind. Yet, food production is measured in terms of weight and not nutrition yield. Since farming method is directly correlated with nutrition yield, as science proves, logically methods that produce maximum nutrition yield at minimum cost should have been promoted. However, this has never been done anywhere in the world and never under planned agriculture development.


Farmers associate yield increase with higher income. Governments associate yield increase because of sale of fertilizers, pesticides, growth stimulants, oil, electricity and seeds with higher Gross Domestic Product [GDP] because majority of these are in the formal sector. If a farmer adopts natural farming system and achieves Zero Budget Natural Farming [ZBNF], as many are achieving, it actually depresses GDP but the ZBNF system provides more nutrition and ensures better health.


This anomaly has been thoroughly exploited by corporations manufacturing hybrid seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery, oil, gas, and electricity. They promised production increase not nutrition increase, because nutrition was not considered in the GDP calculation. If people got sick because of poor nutrition, it increased the sales of pharmaceutical products and corporate hospitals adding to GDP because expenditure on sickness management, euphemistically called “HEALTHCARE,” adds to GDP. This is one of the most despicable logic of economists, conventional or Marxist, and they are behind this inhuman calculation.  


Farming methods directly determine environmental health too. Organic farm management sequesters 1.5 metric tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide into the soil which helps soil biological processes. By organic I mean Vedic, natural, biodynamic, permaculture, any name or ‘brand’ that is chemical and oil/gas free. Nature is so powerful that it can feed the world on and on even if we were 13 billion. Eminent scientist Dr. KP Prabhakaran Nair says, ‘soil is the soul of life.’ If soil is the soul of life it can’t be ‘nourished’ by chemical poisons because soil is where nutrition is grown. Soil is also a living being which we don’t see. If chemicals kill the living soil, how can soil be the soul of life?


Food production method determines nutrition. Agriculture policy influences which method farmers adopt and that directly determines human health and environmental health.


Food and nutrition


Modern mechanized chemical-based agriculture and food production has caused significant decline in nutrition in all common foods including milk, egg, and meat. The issue of nutrition decline has been thoroughly studied in the USA and Europe and the conclusions of different research groups are consistent and broadly similar. We are eating nutrition-deficient foods. The decline is strongly correlated with industrial farming method and is called nutrition-dilution effect, which means the yield increase does not enhance nutrition proportionately.


Dr Donald Davis, a former US-Department of Agriculture scientist, and his team studied 43 common garden crops and “found apparent declines in median concentrations of six nutrients: protein – 6%, calcium –16%, phosphorus –9%, iron –15%, riboflavin –38%, and vitamin C about –20%. [1]


Dr Kathryn Scharf of Kushi Institute studied USDA nutrient data from 1975 and 1997, and uncovered a disturbing trend: Average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables have declined 27 percent, iron levels have dropped 37 percent, vitamin A levels, 21 percent; and vitamin C levels, 30 percent. [2]


‘State of the Science Review’ [2008] is another vital document in our understanding of nutrition in our foods. This exhaustive review shows that the magnitude of difference in nutritive content of organic foods was overwhelmingly superior to conventional or industrial foods. ‘The medical evidence linking fruits and vegetables to good health is overwhelming. And now, so too is the new evidence that organic fruits and vegetables deliver more nutrients per average serving, including the all-important protective phytonutrients like polyphenols and antioxidant...’ says Andrew Weil of the Organic Centre. [3]


The National Institute of Nutrition [NIN] in India also came out with a research paper some years ago that the nutritive content of nearly all foods is down but I have not been able to access that paper nor the methodology they used. However, their findings were ignored by the previous governments. In fact, the current Governor of Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan went on record claiming that agriculture is a drag on GDP growth. The new nationalist government must focus on nutrition.


Farming systems determine nutrition


Evidences clearly show that farming methods determine nutritive content of food. In a major statistical study by Dr Virginia Worthington, she found that organic management of farms produces most nutritious foods on all counts of critical food nutrients as compared to chemical based farming. Conventional, also known as chemical, farming methods consistently fail to show similar results because of the nutrition dilution effect, which essentially means that one gets more food by weight but less nutrition. [4] Not only that we got less nutrition, agricultural scientists suppressed the data that traces of lethal pesticides enter our body every time we eat and through bio-accumulation of toxins we become weaker and more prone to diseases. Medical establishments also suppressed this vital finding. Serious doctors who believe in ‘healing’ strongly recommend organic foods. Nutrition-based healing is now a major field of science known as Orthomolecular medicine.  


Genetically Modified [GM] foods are worst on all counts. They neither increase yield nor nutrition. Instead they kill the living soil, reduce production, and are the biggest threat to human and environmental health. Consistently proven a failed technology, India’s previous three government’s fetish with GMOs was shocking. The Ministry of Agriculture became Ministry for promoting GM seeds and GM foods. Farming system determines national health outcome.


Nutrition and health


Health is directly correlated with nutrition. More nutrition makes one healthier. Our body can even combat most infections. A natural health expert, Stephen Solomon, has a simple formula: HEALTH = NUTRITION / CALORIE


Nutrition can be broadly measured in terms of proteins, vitamins and minerals. Calorie is essentially energy. Hence if the proportion of nutrition in one’s diet in greater than calorie intake, health would be greater than 1, positive. Conversely, if the diet is greater in calorie than nutrition, health would be a fraction of 1 and our body would be weakened. 


There is a simple test of nutrition in one’s food. If food is tasty in raw form, it has nutrition. If food is bland or tasteless, it is nutrition deficient. Those of us who grew up in the 1950s can readily relate to this. When cucumber was sliced in the kitchen, its smell would pervade even outside. Basmati rice had an aroma that even neighbours could smell. Garlic was so pungent that if one ate 4-5 garlic cloves it would could cause nose bleed.


Today we are eating calorie not nutrition. We are eating such unhealthy foods that barely 50% of India’s population can be called healthy. Out of the unhealthy 50%, 25% are underweight or severely thin and short. The other 25% are overweight or obese. Just stand by any shopping mall or visit any slum. Mere visual inspection will confirm this but even the government data shows it.[5]


Majority of the poor are underweight and many affluent children, women and men are obese. Both essentially suffer from malnutrition induced by nutrition deficient diet.  Even some slum dwellers are obese because they are eating calories not nutrition. A simple test of nutrition deficiency is that if the circumference with belly button as the centre is larger than the circumference around the butt, one is not healthy. Nutrition determines health.


India is not eating for health and longevity


Imitation of western habits of eating is killing India. The poor think in terms of filling the belly with anything that looks like food. The rich think that God and wealth will save them no matter what the health complications. Eating nutrition deficient foods, India is joining the USA, worst country health-wise, in terms of cases of cancers, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and other degenerative diseases.


Indian planners on food security were clearly misled when they fixed calorie as the benchmark for poverty. If a person was eating 80% of the ideal calorie intake, he/she was classified as poor. That was 1972 and those days at least 1000 world class publications were available to educate anyone interested in the health of a nation and calorie does not figure as a key determinant. Even the basic textbook used in medical colleges in Preventive and Social Medicine module devotes entire section on nutrition. Was that a momentary lapse of reason by our planners? Or, was it something more insidious.


Indians were genetically tall and shortness is not merely genetic; it is a function of nutrition-deficient diet. Healthy body mass, bone density, muscle power and general fitness depend upon optimum nutrition-energy balance. The question is why was it never planned? The British colonialists in the 1880s-90s determined that the quantity of food supplied under “ration” to prevent starvation deaths should be about 200 kilograms of cereals per person per year. In 1760 the per capita food availability was 1000 kilograms. Did the planners set food security at British colonialist’s starvation death preventing level? Since then there has been no serious public discussion on nutrition security. NEVER.


Nutrition standards


Responding to a PIL, the Supreme Court set norms for calories and protein for children, malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, destitute persons and school going children in primary and upper primary schools. “The Nutrition standards for children in the age group of 0 – 14 years, pregnant and lactating women as well destitute persons [are] required to be met whether by provision of take home rations or local and freshly cooked meals in accordance with this Act.” [6] The PIL that started 2001 may never achieve food and nutrition security because the problem lays elsewhere. Proposed reforms dealt with, among other things, entitlements for farmers, the homeless, destitute, migrant persons, even illegal immigrants. There was no discussion on farming method.


Economists and nutrition


Nutrition does not figure in the calculation of economists. Calorie was a default measure of energy required for drudge labour which is exactly what neo-colonialists want. Nehru’s economists planned for starvation prevention, not health.  The unstated agenda was to perpetuate a colonial-feudal relationship of agricultural production and pricing. Shastri did not live long to know the truth. Indira Gandhi’s “Garibi Hatao” was merely political gimmickry, so was her son’s. Narasimha Rao spent most of his time as MP in JNU library reading tomes written by his ilk and drinking tea in the nearby dhaba instead of seriously investigating the problems of the peasantry in India and exploring the cause of his own unending medical problems. In between non-entities became Prime Ministers and then came Vajpayee. I have not seen one sentence in Vajpayee’s writings on the correlation between food, nutrition and health.


A soulless economist Manmohan Singh destroyed India’s agriculture and national health. Installed by the Signora, he said “GMOs will save the nation” when the whole world is opposing Genetically Engineered seeds and foods.


Farmer saved seeds, cow dung, compost or vermi-compost, organic pest management do not push Gross Domestic Product [GDP] up. Reduced healthcare cost because the population is healthy drops the turnover of pharmaceutical and corporate hospital industry which also reduces GDP. Economists’ GDP calculation does not factor in health. The world’s largest and most militarised economy also has the largest number of sick and disabled. The USA is a slowly dying nation. Foods are completely devoid of nutrition; the poor can’t afford organic foods nor can they buy health insurance. The previous government was moving in that direction. 


The dirtiest role in this mass enslavement has been played by India’s agriculture scientists and extension officers. They are not scientists, but salesmen of powerful corporations just as doctors have become sales agents of multinational pharmaceutical firms.  


Green revolution technologies pushed chemical poisons on our plate. Traces of tens of poisons can be found in a human body by age two, hundreds in an adult. As we age, we pay the medical establishment to keep us alive, somehow, at great cost and inconvenience to every family and the society. Many excellent studies are freely available on bio-accumulation of toxins that destroy human and animal health. However, a great research gap is in understanding of the synergistic effect of hundreds of chemical, biological and radiological insults. Every serious scientist has been warning of the inadequacy of scientific evidences of the compounding and synergistic effect on our body and mind. If any work has been done, it is kept under wraps. For, if they are revealed, people are going to lynch their leaders worldwide.  


Should expenditure on sickness care be added to GDP or deducted? Why should we not rename the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as Ministry for Sickness and Death? Is there not a sound case for banning WHO, UNICEF, USAID, UNDP, WTO, the Codex Alimentarius  and even for dismissal of all the researchers and officers on UN-International Institute of Population Sciences in Mumbai that collude with them? This alone is a huge story that will shake the world’s trust in what the privatised UN system does.


Since the early 1990s, there has been a concerted move by western transnational corporations, the UN-system and western governments to take control over the world’s food and nutrition and make people sick and dependent on privatised healthcare system. Trace the value chain and you will find that only corporations are benefiting from modern mechanised agriculture; everyone else is suffering one way or the other.   


Since 1991 there has been steep rise in degenerative diseases like cancers, cardio-vascular events, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, obesity, auto-immune diseases, and asthma in India. The main cause is nutrition deficiency. Even TB cases are going up. A huge problem is antibiotic resistant TB for which the pharmaceutical industry backed by privatised United Nation’s Framework Team and INGOs have a huge programme called Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course [DOTS] running without proven success in terms of health. Billions were spent in India on “HIV Causes AIDS” fraudulent paradigm. AIDS treatment drugs were found to actually induce immune deficiency. Diagnosed cases have fared much better and recovered faster with good, solid, old fashioned nutrition therapy. [7]


It is well known that highly nutritious diet combined with high dose of Vitamin C could combat any viral or bacterial infection or even toxicity. With all these incontrovertible evidences, why has our Government ignored nutrition-based health care? Why Orthomolecular Medicine, a fully fledged scientific discipline, is not taught in our medical schools? Honest medical practitioners are combining modern medicine with nutrition dense foods to rehabilitate critical cases. And because of their honesty they are being hounded out, demonised, even murdered, by the world’s biggest pharmaceutical firms.


Seed biotech industry led by Monsanto wants to force feed the world genetically modified foods without demonstrating their nutritional superiority. It was suspected and eventually known that GMO could pose major threats to human and animal health and the environment, yet efforts at independent bio-safety assessment were discontinued. As late as February and March, 2014, both Manmohan Singh and his Environment Minister Veerappa Moily approved and even pushed for genetically engineered foods and seeds.


Radical strategy for food and nutrition security


The key to nutrition and food security is how farmers manage farmlands. If they maintain soil nutrition balance at optimum level, they can produce highly nutritious foods year after year in perpetuity. ‘Soil is the soul of life’ said Dr. Prabhakaran Nair. [8] Science tells us that we need natural mineral matrix and living matter in the soil. Since we also know that industrial farming destroys both, why should we follow the ‘conventional’ method imposed on us by the western corporations?


According to an Economic Times report quoting the latest FAO report, “India has recorded an average yield of 2.9 Metric Tonnes [MT] per hectare as against the global benchmark of 3.0 MT/ha. However, it's still far from countries like France (7.0 MT), US (3.11 MT) and China (4.8 MT).” [9] India has 179 million hectare of reasonably good agricultural land. At 2.9 MT per hectare average yield of food we are producing 520 million metric tonnes of food annually, which keeps fluctuating with vagaries of unpredictable weather. If we utilize the low cost methods, which have proven to be successful, the national output of food can be increased by 50% to at least 4.35 MT per hectare or 780 million MT annually.  


Nalanda farmers broke world record in rice, wheat, potato and onion yield which led Nobel laureate Joseph Stieglitz to remark that these farmers are “scientists.” He actually went to Nalanda to meet them. According to a Times of India report, he personally “checked the size and quality of the produce and said that it is amazing that the farmers of the district are prospering using traditional methods in farming which was not only good for health but the farmers were getting high yields as well. He also said that “the achievements of the farmers of the state and this district will definitely inspire farmers of other countries.” [10] 


All that these farmers did was adopt a bit of science and combined the traditional practices of green manuring producing four to five times more per hectare equivalent year after year so much so that we still don’t know whether they have achieved maximum sustainable threshold of yield or not. Six months of training and on-farm trials and the farmers took over from there. Intelligent ones broke world records but even the lazy ones achieved on average 86% increase as a WORLD BANK report shows.


Similar reports are coming from all parts of India. Those who have adopted natural systems, be they organic, biodynamic, permaculture or Vedic method, and essentially all these methods are similar, relying on the power of Nature, all are consistently showing outstanding performance. These foods are nutritious. Such methods ensure food and nutrition security in perpetuity. With these methods, India can emerge as a major food exporting country while ensuring health for all. [11]


Modi’s Agriculture Minister has to rise up to the challenges.




[2] From an article by Kathryn Scharf - website of “Communications for a Sustainable Future”


[4] Jarrell WM, Beverly RB. Advances in Agronomy, 1981; 34:197–224

[5] NFHS-III, Nutritional status of women and men; pages 303 to 313

[6] Food security bill 2011, prepared by the National Advisory Council in July 2011. The Parliamentary Bill is far more lethal.






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