Monday, March 12, 2012


Specialists always tend to look at their field of specialization in isolation without being aware of the dynamics of nature where every human endeavor is interconnected. There was a time when food scientists started looking at the whole food system from within and what came out was a shock for many of them. This refers to the efficiency of protein derived from different food sources and the comparison was between plant foods and animal based products. It became clear that to get one kg of animal protein man has to expend 7 kg of plant proteins and awareness about such gigantic waste started sweeping across the world transforming many meat eaters into vegetarians. Recent debate about the interconnection between food and energy is igniting a new sense of urgency for making conscious efforts to reduce energy consumption by the food sector as much as possible. Here is a gist of the debate which brings out many interesting revelations not known widely hitherto:

"It's important to understand the many interconnections between the food and energy sectors in order to make good consumer choices and develop prudent public policy. A recent Scientific American article by Michael E. Webber makes a big contribution to this effort by examining the food system through the "lens of energy use." Webber explains that looking at the food supply in this context "reveals opportunities for smart policies, innovative technologies and new dietary choices that can potentially solve food and energy problems together. The same steps would also make our bodies, and our ecosystems, healthier." So how much energy is required to grow food? According to Webber, about 10 percent of the U.S. energy budget is associated with "producing, distributing, processing, preparing and preserving the plant and animal matter we consume." And what's the rate of return on that investment of energy? Unfortunately, it's not very good. "The energy used to make food is vastly greater than the amount of energy we get out of it," writes Webber. In the United States, it takes about 10 units of fossil energy to produce one unit of food energy.This ratio is not sustainable! Americans need to find ways to reduce it if there's any hope of decreasing our own food-energy consumption, and so does the rest of the world, especially as the population is projected to top nine billion by 2050".

It is almost criminal for a country like the US to expend 10 units of fossil energy to get 1 unit of biological energy from the food produced and consumed. This becomes indeed a shocking news at an age when fossil energy sources are rapidly drying and desperate efforts are on globally to find suitable but affordable new sustainable sources of energy. As it is the US happened to be the top nation in the world when energy guzzling is monitored, most of it "savable" with a little bit of effort and sacrifice. Unfortunately there is an unwillingness to address this issue and the casualty is going to be the poor developing countries which are invariably being asked to bear the "Cross"! The rich nation club must address this issue under international aegis on an emergency basis similar to the collective efforts being made now to reduce green house gas emissions for avoiding further damage to the environment through global warming.


No comments: