India is moving quickly from under-nutrition to obesity: Prof Pingali

Chennai Dec 23, 2019: Diets have changed with more money to spend on food, but is this for the better? No, say experts. “Growing income and urbanisation drive diet changes while supply has not kept pace with rising demand for diverse foods” said Prof Prabhu Pingali, eminent economist. Speaking at a seminar at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation today, he was focusing on the book ‘Transforming Food Systems for a Rising India’ written by him along with Dr Anaka Aiyar, Dr Mathew Abraham and Dr Andaleeb Rahman.

Prof Pingali said there is vast disparity due to unbalanced diet patterns leading to both undernutrition and obesity in India. The book explores challenges and opportunities to achieve a nutrition-secure future through production systems, improved health and hygiene environment and greater capability to access a balanced diet.

Co-author of the book, Dr Anaka Aiyar, Health Economist, said there is a need to refocus public policy to increase system and nutrition diversity and tackle the triple burden of malnutrition . “We need to have a state-specific approach in policy for nutrition sensitive food systems in India.”

A Professor at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Prof Pingali is Founder Director Tata-Cornell Institute, while Dr Aiyar is a post-doctoral Fellow at Tata Cornell University.  He pinpointed that Indian states needed to tackle undernutrition as well as obesity. We need to commercialize and diversify for income and supply. Changing demand has brought about opportunities for diversification and new markets but smallholder farmers still do not get the benefits. Making them more productive and competitive requires moving beyond staple grain technologies, he said.

Dr Madhura Swaminathan, Chairperson, MSSRF spoke of how the wheat and rice prices have come down due to the green revolution and the Public Distribution System maintains low costs. However, expenditure on staples without PDS will go up.

Eminent Scientists like Dr Soumya Swaminathan from WHO, students and other experts from the area of Agriculture, Nutrition and Health participated in the Seminar.

Published by Palgrave-Macmillan, the book can be accessed on  and is available free to download. With over 17,000 downloads already, it is one of the topmost downloaded books in that section.