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Agriculture and Food Systems in India: A Wicked Problem

Event Type
CEE 595G
3310 NCEL Yeh Center
Apr 29, 2024   12:00 - 12:50 pm  
Dr. Srinidhi Balasubramanian, Professor, Environmental Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Originating Calendar
CEE Seminars and Conferences

Food systems today face a wicked problem. Current agricultural practices have resulted in widespread environmental damages, yet there is an urgent need to expand food production to reduce nutrition inequities. This is particularly crucial for a country like India that faces the dual challenge of food and environmental health security for an estimated 1.6 billion people by 2050. In this talk, I will provide an overview of how the Indian food system impacts the environment, focusing on a class of compounds called reactive nitrogen. An Environmentally Extended Input-Output model was developed to track reactive nitrogen sources and flows from the agriculture sector for the years 2000-2020. Findings suggest large inefficiencies in nitrogen management for crop and livestock production, with nearly 60% of the applied nitrogen lost to the atmosphere and hydrosphere. While such inefficiencies can be mitigated through sustainable production practices, dietary choices have also been identified to be an important lever for mitigation. Preliminary results from a consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions inventory highlight dairy and meat consumption as the largest contributor to climate footprint, with significant regional and demographic heterogeneity. Overall, the talk will highlight the need for a holistic approach to co-design agricultural and environmental policies to mitigate the existing paradoxical challenges posed by modern-day food systems.

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