Thursday, May 13, 2010


National Technology Day was "celebrated" in India on May 11, 2010 and it is usually an occasion to "brag" about technological "achievements" made by the country in different spheres of national development. Those entrusted with development of technologies for food processing and preservation are not to be left behind in this "bragging" business and the two supposedly premier food technological institutions located at Mysore had their trumpets blown at high decibel strength to make sure that their voices are heard at right quarters that count. According to the reports appearing in the reputed Bangalore based news paper Deccan Herald of May 12, 2001, both the above institutions made elaborate arrangement to ensure that adequate coverage is given to what they have to say. Here is some excerpts from the paper for the benefit of the readers of this blog to decide about the credibility of these public funded food R & D organizations. First the civilian set up for food research in the country and part of the speech delivered on the occasion, quoted verbatim from the above paper.

"Director CFTRI, Dr V Prakash on Tuesday said that holistic approach is needed to understand issues like volcanic ash and many other natural disasters. He was delivering presidential address at National Technology Day celebrations 2010 at CFTRI premises in the city. Prakash said that there are several scientific evidence to say that global warming is happening at alarming rate. It has resulted in increased temperature and it can be easily checked at home or offices. But the problem is beyond that. Of every one degree Celsius rise in temperature in soil surface, there is 10% decrease in agriculture yield. This sprouts great concern for future's loss in crop production and also productivity. This apart, loss of surface water, loss of microbial population in the soil vanishing inter crop pattern, changing systems of agriculture aggravates the woes. Prakash said about 50000 liters of water will be lost annually if the leakages from the taps were not plugged. It calls for immediate need for minimizing the use of energy and also expenditure."

What food technology or the CFTRI has to do with the issues raised in the rambling exposition above is not clear. One can only guess that the purpose of the function was more to project the "wide knowledge" of the speaker beyond the realm of food technology, rather than highlighting the institutional strength. Probably the above speech has all the hallmarks of the Inter Country Panel on Climate Change of the UN (IPCC), recently disgraced because of the fudging of its climate change report. One can only pity the fall from grace of an institution founded, nurtured and established by eminent food scientists of yesteryear which contributed significantly to the development of food industry till early nineteen nineties.

In contrast the report emanating from the defense sector R & D set up is indeed interesting, revealing and informative to citizens in this country regarding the efforts put in by the scientists and technologists there in developing newer products for the army personnel. According to the reporter of the News Paper, the exhibition was able to arouse interest amongst the citizens of Mysore though many were disappointed by the absence of arrangements to offer some of the new products for tasting. Though seeing is believing, actual tasting is convincing.

"Aloe Vera based performance enhancement drink, spiced aloe squash, frozen chicken shreds, frozen mutton shami kabab, mutton sandwiches, protein bars, meal equivalent bars, fiber bars, appetizer bars, nutraceutical bars. This is not a list of menu from any hotel. But these items were put on exhibition by the Defense Food Research Laboratory in Mysore on Tuesday as part of National Technology Day.---DFRL highlighted achievements of food scientists in the field of food technology and their efforts to provide nutritious food for the soldiers guarding the country's borders in extreme weather conditions".

Indeed the exhibition provided an insight into its activities since 1961. To what extent the technologies developed here have been commercialized or estimate of production by the industry using these technologies are questions that should have been posed by the critical press corps who covered the above program. Of course some of the technologies appear familiar because they were cited earlier also but on the whole this institution has projected its strength in the area of its empowerment through public funding. It may be a different issue if some of the products developed were never accepted by the Jawans for whom they were intended.


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