We are all proud of the work done by the father of our Green Revolution Dr M S Swaminathan, which helped India alleviate hunger to a great extent by significantly increasing the yield of rice and wheat.
If that was the need of the hour during our first Independence Day, 70 years later the priority is to alleviate lifestyle diseases like diabetes staring 134 million Indians in the face with an estimated annual cost of $73 billion according to the World Health Organisation.
The root cause for diabetes is the excess carbohydrate from grains and not getting enough fibre from greens in the average diet. The great Green Revolution actually created a Grain Revolution at the expense of the greens we consumed. Except for the Northeastern states, average Indian plate is now at least half grains and at the max, a quarter greens whereas the diabetes association’s recommended plate is at least half greens and only a quarter grains.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, Cardiologist and author of Pioppi Diet makes a strong case in his book on how health services across the world can save trillions of dollars if doctors recommend the low-grain-high-green plate of the people of Pioppi, Italy, where the average lifespan is 89 years and many live beyond 100. Just like Kerala, Pioppi is tucked between the coast and the Mediterranean hills and the vegetation is rich in green vegetables and olives like green fruits and coconuts for Kerala.
In order for India to reverse its alarming rate of growth in diabetes, we need a Greener Revolution from our young agro-entrepreneurs by significantly increasing the yield of green fruits and leafy vegetables like Swaminathan and his team did with grains. This requires breakthrough startup ideas in agriculture production, harvesting tools and food processing technologies so that greens can arrive on our plate as affordable and convenient to eat as grains.
We shouldn’t leave this 73 billion dollar market opportunity to medicines and to the likes of quinoa from South America or oats from Australia. If the Green Revolution began from the plains of Punjab, the ideal place to start the Greener Revolution is from the Western Ghats of Kerala, which is now known only for the struggling rubber and tea plantations, once rich with leafy vegetables and fruit like jackfruit, banana, papaya, guava, etc.