Tuesday, September 16, 2008


10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1983, seven since 1990 and global temperature was hottest in the year 1998. A remarkable record for a world bent on forsaking the future for to day's comforts. The warming phenomenon is being attributed to the ecological disaster man has created for himself by thoughtless and short sighted actions. The green house gas emissions, most important contributory factor for global warming have not received the attention it needs, especially in industrially developed countries which account for 80% of these emissions. Massive spewing of CO2, one of the main culprits is a corollary to the modern energy intensive living styles and some sacrifice is necessary if any modicum of control on emission can be achieved. No wonder USA, the major environment pollution nation in this planet is not a signatory to the Kyoto Agreement which has set a goal for controlling emissions on a long term basis and it is no wonder that this country had to face massive floods, droughts and hurricanes in the last few years, causing miseries to millions of people. The tragedy is that no lesson has been learned in spite of the above disasters and USA still remains recalcitrant as far as climate control is concerned.

Food industry has a strong moral responsibility to share the concerns of human beings vis-a-vis tragedies brought about by mindless destruction of nature. As CO2 emission is considered a critical pollutant, its control assumes significance at micro as well as macro levels. Compared to power plants and other high pollution industry, food processing does not contribute much to the emission problem but still doing its part in the global landscape to ameliorate the situation will be applauded. It is in this context the concept of 'Carbon Neutral Foods' (CNF) was evolved and New Zealand leads the world in this endeavor. The jargon used in this context means that foods produced will not have net CO2 debit when they reach the consumer. It is known that CO2 is generated at different stages of food production, packing, transport etc and the extent pollution depends on the industry and its efficiency in deploying technology for reducing the emission. While it is not possible to bring down CO2 emission to zero, it can definitely be reduced to unavoidable minimum by suitable corrective actions.

Pitango of Auckland in New Zealand became the first CNF company which sells risottos, curries and porridge nationally, involving raw produce procurement, bringing to the processing location, processing into finished products and distribution all over the country. Each operation emits CO2 and the total emission was worked out initially. By systematic CO2 emission auditing, the company optimized all its operations to curtail CO2 emission to the maximum extent possible. Then it partnered with local farmers to change some of the agricultural practices and improve transportation methods to drastically bring down emission of CO2. Further it invested in projects for preservation of greenery, reafforestation and renewable energy that will capture/reduce CO2 emission equivalent to the quantum it has released because of its manufacturing activities. Though this is a drop in the ocean, the concept is based on the philosophy that many a drop makes an ocean!

Is this conceivable in India where sensitivity to public agony is at a very low level with each individual engrossed in tackling the day to day problems of his own rather than loosing sleep on pollution and weather changes?. Why not? It all depends on incentives that can be put in place to attract adherents to the concept of CNF. Availability of technology for wind power, solar power, heat recycling and geothermal energy exploitation if effectively used will reduce CO2 emission very significantly and association of the industry with projects for afforestation and similar green projects can make a significant impact nationally. Industry leadership and governmental support must converge for realizing the objectives of transforming the country a model state in this field and ensure a much safer environment for future generation.


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