‘Future-proofing’ the Indian food system

Researchers we've funded have shown that making small changes to diet could help to ‘future-proof’ the Indian food system against the declining availability of groundwater.

The researchers found that only moderate changes would be needed to reduce the amount of water used in food production and ensure that sufficient food can be produced for India's growing population.  

The researchers suggest eating less wheat and dairy, and eating more fruits, vegetables and pulses, which require less water to grow. They also recommend switching the types of fruit consumed – oranges and apples, for example, need much less water to produce than mangoes.

The study, published in the inaugural issue of The Lancet Planetary Health, suggests that the dietary changes would be broadly beneficial to health. They could reduce the risk of various non-communicable diseases, especially coronary heart disease.

Food production in India is heavily reliant on farming that requires a large amount of irrigation with groundwater. As the population grows, the amount of groundwater available per person is predicted to decline by as much as 30% by 2050.

The researchers' results suggest that combining changes to typical diets with improvements in agricultural technology could increase the resilience of the food system.

"Over the last century, water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth," says Saskia Heijnen, Portfolio Lead for Our planet, our health. "We’re faced with the big problem of trying to produce more high-quality food but with less resource. This research shows that a sustainable diet could be created with a few relatively simple changes to current trends, and how this would help not only the planet but the health of people as well."

More information

Read more about this research in the press release.

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