Sachdeva B, Puri S, Aeri BT. Environmental imprints of agricultural and livestock produce: a scoping review from South Asian countries. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2023: 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.1323 (pay wall)
Medical professionals, nutrition experts, chefs, foodservice procurement
The present study explored the role of South Asian food crops and livestock in environmental degradation.
Bottom line for nutrition practice:
- A prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is the sustainable food production. Many foods that are healthy for people are healthy for the environment, too. Trained medical professionals and nutrition experts encourage healthy eating. According to the research, nutrition experts in South Asian nations do possess enough understanding about sustainable food systems. Thus, in addition to nutrition education, they can spread the knowledge about food sustainability as well.
- At the public level, concept of food sustainability can be promoted by chefs or nutritionists who oversee large food establishments and serve maximum population. Providing plant-based, seasonal, varied, and traditional menus, along with reduced portion sizes, could be easy yet effective ways to encourage sustainable diets and decrease food waste.
- Background: Global agricultural activities in 2020 produced 5.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, and this amount is projected to increase since 70% more food would need to be produced in 2050 to feed the world’s population. Food security in South Asian countries is expected to rise due to increased agricultural output, yet it is unclear how their livestock and food crops will affect the environment. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the environmental effects of agricultural activities (pre and post-production) associated with edible food crops and livestock products consumed in eight South Asian nations.
- Methods: Three databases—PubMed, Google Scholar, and Science Direct—were used to find the studies between 2011 and 2022. There was no registered protocol for this scoping review.
- Results: The criteria for inclusion were met by twenty-seven studies. Most of the research was done in India. The assessment of greenhouse gas emissions was reported in twenty-four papers followed by water footprints (n = 5), emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus (n = 4), and land requirements (n = 4).A major source of greenhouse gas emissions has been found to be the cultivation of wheat and rice. It has been reported that the production of livestock (meat, dairy, prawns, and bovine) in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka has also a negative impact on the environmental. For other environment variables, inconclusive data were obtained.
- Conclusions: Growing more coarse cereals (millets) and diversifying the food production are the requisite steps to reduce the GHG emissions. However, to corroborate the current analysis, further long-term studies for South Asian nations are necessary.
Details of results:
- A total of twenty-seven screened studies met the scoping review’s eligibility and were included in the final analysis. Selected research articles discussed the impact of livestock and/or food production on various environmental parameters.
- With the help of this review, information about various environmental effects of pre- and post-production activities pertaining to food crops and livestock products in South Asian nations was gathered. In accordance with the World Bank’s classification, eight South Asian nations—India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan—were taken into consideration.
- It was observed that greenhouse gas emissions were the most often researched environmental impact worldwide. Retrieved data on land requirements, water footprints, and nitrogen.
- Understanding a nation’s food production and consumption pattern is essential to ensure food sustainability. Research indicates that due to globalisation there has been a nutrition transition in South Asian countries.
- Refined products, high fat, high sugar and animal-based food which are consumed more frequently are considered harmful for the environment. Diversifying one’s diet is recommended at the individual level in all six countries. This includes consuming a range of grains and substituting millets (bajra, ragi, and sorghum) for rice/wheat and plant based milk (almond milk for dairy or animal products.
Of additional interest:
- Sustainable food choices: Key lessons from Quality Schemes, Public Procurement and Short Supply Chains (MOOC)
- Sustainable Institutional Food Procurement Insights, lessons, and recommendations from a Churchill Fellowship (2022)
- StratKIT Platform – Sustainable public procurement and catering network & Sustainable Public Meal Toolkit (website)
Conflict of interest/ Funding:
The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
Seema Puri, Department of Food and Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, email@example.com