USSEC Supports India’s Fight against Malnutrition
- General News
USSEC supports India’s 2014-2015 finance bill, commonly referred to as the Union Budget, which was presented to the Indian Parliament in July. The proposed budget contained specific references to areas that directly touch on the population’s nutrition status and the impending need to expand the country’s protein offerings.
The finance bill expressed concern at India’s deteriorating malnutrition and recommended that the problem needs to be tackled in “mission mode," as present interventions have proved inadequate. A recent report from India’s Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation indicates that half of India’s children in the growing stage are severely malnourished and stunted. India’s government is expected to roll out a comprehensive strategy to address malnutrition as a mission.
Another significant point in the budget document was the government’s commitment to launch a technology-driven second green revolution or “Protein Revolution” focusing on higher productivity. This term implies addressing protein malnutrition particularly among children and mothers as well as ensuring high quality, affordable protein accessible to all people in order to meet the consumption levels recommended by the National Institute of Nutrition.
Although the term “Protein Revolution” is directional in terms of increasing the productivity of protein crops and animal and marine protein sources, it nevertheless clearly highlights the Indian government’s concern and commitment to provide adequate food resources and deliver quality protein to the population. This is perhaps the first time that a budget document prioritized the urgency to enlarge the accessibility of affordable protein foods on a national level. Expanding the protein basket through increases in production and productivity would require long gestational periods, making improvements slow and gradual, particularly considering the already-stressed land and water resources for agriculture. The efficient and judicious use of existing plant protein resources will go a long way to immediately bridge the protein gap significantly. Full utilization of soy for meeting domestic human protein needs to assume greater priority and importance to showcase its high accessibility and protein density and low cost.
India’s top scientists and food policy makers also echo similar concerns and stress the urgent need to address these issues as a national endeavor. A high-level scientific forum comprised of national agricultural, food and nutrition research and policy making agencies held a March brainstorming session, “Soybean for Household Food and Nutrition Security,” in New Delhi. This forum made strong recommendations for the use of soy protein foods for various nutrition intervention programs in India, also recommending rationalizing tariffs and taxes for soyfoods in order to make these protein-rich foods affordable and accessible to the common people. The USSEC - India team actively supported and participated in this national event.