He was addressing the inaugural session of the virtual consultation on the theme ‘Science for Resilient Food, Nutrition and Livelihoods’ organised by the MS Swaminathan research foundation in Chennai on Friday.
He said the ongoing pandemic could make the problem of hunger and undernourishment more acute because of the loss of livelihoods and global economic slowdown.
India had made significant strides in reducing hunger and infant mortality in recent years. But much more is needed to be done.
He said the need to invest in resilient communities, equipped to face food insecurity caused by the challenges of conflicts, climate related shocks, degradation of natural resources and water scarcity had never been more urgent than today. Concerted action by civil society, Panchayati raj institutions and states and central governments and international co-operation was required for this purpose.
He called for proactively blending latest scientific knowhow with traditional knowledge of indigenous communities.
There was an imminent need to minimise pre and post-harvest losses, improve irrigation,market infrastructure and transport network and market produce at reasonable cost.
He also called for reorienting agricultural priorities towards more nutrition-sensitive food as the health impacts associated with poor diet quality were significant.
Investments in improved storage and preservation to retain the nutritional value of food products rather than in highly processed foods needed to be stepped up.
Laboratories also had to be firmly linked to farms so that technology transfer and farmer education happened seamlessly, he added.