How Improvement of Human Health and Nutrition Need Better Soil Health

India has been implementing some of the biggest nutrition programs for decades and while some improvement in nutrition is indicated, on the whole malnutrition levels remain high. This needs to be explained at several levels, and one explanation that should not be neglected relates to soil health. It is increasingly realized by scientists that soil health is closely related to nutrition of crops which are grown in this soil and if soil health deteriorates in important ways, then the nutrition of crops grown in this soil can decrease too. In a note of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations titled Healthy Soils Produce Healthy Crops it has been stated that soil quality is directly related to food quality, apart from food quantity.

Soil health has deteriorated badly in farms of most countries due to heavy soil erosion as well as relentless increase in the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides. Even the persistent use of heavy machinery on farms has been harmful for soil. A recent article in The Hindustan Times has quoted a senior official of the  National Rainfed Area Authority (India) as stating that the organic matter of soil has declined to less than one third of of its previous level during the last 70 years.( The crucial interlinking of soil degradation and health, HT, August 25 2022). This article also mentions research at the National Institute of Nutrition ( India) which has revealed decline in carbohydrates by a little over 9 per cent and of protein in whole brown lentils by over 10 per cent between 1989 and 2017, while a decline in proteins, calcium, iron and phosphorus was also noticed in various fruits and vegetables.

It is well-known that excessive use of chemical fertilizers causes a loss of flavor of food; what is less known is that is can also cause a loss of nutritive value and even create some serious health problems. According to prominent nutrition expert C. Gopalan, “the use of high analysis chemical fertilisers, which is part of the modern intensive agricultural technology, had not always gone hand-in-hand with appropriate measures for soil testing and soil replenishment, with the result that, as shown by the studies of FAO (1982), there are disturbing evidences of micronutrient depletion of soils in some areas; these are likely to be eventually reflected in impaired nutritive value of food-grains grown in such soils.”

Such a clear opinion of a very senior nutritionist should not be taken lightly and should have been followed-up more extensively, but it was not. Such emerging scientific opinions and evidence/data on which this and similar opinions were based were pushed aside, away from policy, as these came in the way of powerful forces which wanted Indian agriculture to continue along the path of chemical fertilizer and pesticide intensive farming.

Moreover, it is not just a question of nutrition value being impaired, serious health hazards are also involved when soil health is badly harmed by excessive use of agro-chemicals.

Resource : How Improvement of Human Health and Nutrition Need Better Soil Health -

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