Understanding the food chain has never been more complicated. Over the last two centuries we have witnessed a rapid modernisation of this chain to cater to the growing population. Developing countries like India and China are moving in this direction to achieve food security while developed countries like America are doing so to improve their output per acreage. Whatever might be the reason; the modernisation of agriculture has both a good and bad effect on its environment, the cultivators and most importantly the end consumers.
India is primarily an agricultural land. A large majority of the country’s population is directly or indirectly involved in some form of agriculture. While the potential is immense, we have not been as quick as our contemporaries in adopting efficient and modern agricultural practices. Bad infrastructure, vast amounts of corruption and a huge gap in education and technical know-how has resulted in a rather banal distribution system wherein significant amounts of crop gets destroyed during the storing, transportation and pre production phase. Unlike developed countries, our food comes from an amalgamation of numerous individual farms, each with their own form of practises and methods. Food in India to a large extent cannot be standardised because of this form of land ownership and cultivation.
The bad aspects of this lack of standardisation results in the end consumer not being a 100% sure of the quality of his fruits, vegetables and meats even if he patronises the same vendor. Not every distributor can guarantee the same amount and quality of crop on a consistent basis. Due to lack of information it’s not easy for us to trace our food back through the chain. We don’t always know the ingredients that have gone into making our food or it’s exact origin. Food security is a far cry from reality and the results of natural calamities like draughts are catastrophic.
Though some might not see the situation in the same light, I do believe that the lack of standardisation has some benefits. A lot of old agricultural practices, though inefficient now, do less damage to the soil, cultivator and the end consumer. While farmers may not be able to reap maximum benefit form their piece of land, their rudimentary practises deplete the soil at a slower rate than aggressive forms of cultivation. Lack of access to strong pesticides make it safer for them to be working on the field. Less tampering with the natural process of cultivation results in a healthier crop which when consumed by an individual, has lesser chances of making him or her sick.
While moving towards a more modern and efficient form of cultivation and distribution of food products it’s important not to lose track of the main purpose; to ensure individuals have access to healthy food. Food that isn’t going to make them sick or diseased, food that is truest to its original form with minimal tampering if possible to it’s genetic make up. True progress is when we can make our present as fruitful as possible without hampering our future.