Food and Health Roundtable Discussion

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Psychology Volunteers on Bikes Volunteer Coordinator, Monica Gloria Manluluyo, attended the 2014 International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability (ISCES) last June 11, 2014. Young researchers, journalists, and social workers across the world met in a 2 session roundtable discussion on Food and Health issues in Tongji University’s Sino-French Center last June 11, 2014. The discussion was held as a side event of 2014 ISCES where around 40 students working on Environmental Sustainability, Food Security and Health Issues attended to give input to the Food & Health group. During the discussion, a broad range of issues were tackled from Climate Change and Food Security, Traditional Health Care and Fostering Awareness through Educational Campaigns.

Monica gave her presentation on Kaon Sugbo: Food for Life, “Food Sovereignty for People, Planet and Future”. She mentioned the importance to protect heirloom seeds and to start organic urban gardening as an act of self-reliance and resiliency. She also stressed a point on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). This started a debate on the pros and cons of GMOs. Most of the group stressed the negative impacts of GMO on human and environmental, whereas others spoke about the potential benefits of GMOs for food security and nutrition for the increasing population of the world. The United Nations itself supports GMOs because they believe it is the only solution to world hunger. Most of the group were against this and agreed with the alternative solutions that Monica had covered in her presentation like heirloom seed saving, organic gardening and etc.

M. Asraful Alam, an environmental biotechnologist and co-founder of ‘Bangladeshi Junior Academy of Science’ who acted as a moderator of the RTD, talked about Bt brinjal, the first GMO brinjal (eggplant) that was released recently in Bangladesh. According to him, humanity needs to take a “Leap of Faith” to address food shortage and rising hunger issues, but alternatives must be explored soon to minimize and control the risk of unknown ill-effects of GMO. Lucy Lahrita, a Japanese researcher and journalist who acted as co-moderator for the RTD, supported the leap of faith for GMO food. Monica rebutted this with the statement that community-supported agriculture system, organic vertical gardens and seed saving really are the answers to the global food shortage.

Len Ninghui, a student of Tongji University said that the government needs to monitor food production, management of safe supply system, and the need to develop a healthy lifestyle institute to make people conscious about safe food and healthy life. Sucrit Ranjan, an Indian researcher brought up issues on food supply, fresh water, and public health issues regarding India (as India has the second largest population after China) thus creating an increased demand of food. Another young environmental physiologist spoke on behavioral change for eating habit to ensure good health. In line with this, Monica stressed the need to go back to eating slow cooked food and avoid the more famous fastfood.

The group was still divided on the issue of GMOS, although the Leap of Faith was the most sought after conclusion. At the end of the RTD sessions, they closed that behavioral change is the most important factor to protect our environment and health in terms of food consumption.

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