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Vegetarians can save planet

 
The Asian Age, New Delhi, 31st December, 2009
 
Correspondent : Rashme Sehgal / New Delhi
 
Dec. 30: Vegetarianism has received a major boost with scientists of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) insisting that a vegetarian diet emits less green house gas (GMG). Meat, chicken and poultry products emit more green house gas (GMG) in comparison to fresh vegetables and chapatis.
 
The IARI scientists have come up with a study titled "Greenhouse gas emission in relation to Indian food consumption" which examines the carbon imprint of 24 food items that are being used on an everyday basis in Indian homes. These include chapati, rice, dosa, idli, bread, milk, fish, mutton, beef, butter, dal and cauliflower.
 
The study highlights that mutton produces 45 times more GMG emissions than a simple plate of chappatis. Fresh vegetables produce lower levels of GMG than rice.
 
Consumed in quantities producing the same amount of energy, a team of scientists including Dr H. Pathak, Dr P.K. Aggarwal, Dr J. Patel. Dr N. Jain and Dr A Bhatia point out that wheat is eight times less damaging to the climate than rice and 52 times less damaging than mutton.
 
Commenting on the wheat versus rice debate, Dr Pathak points out that rice emits more methane which has a higher global warming potential because it is grown in anaerobic soil. "Wheat, on the other hand, produces less methane because it is grown in aerobic soil as is also the case with vegetables. It is for this reason that the GMG of rice is 8-9 times higher than that of chapati," Dr Pathak said in the course of an exclusive interview.
 
Methane is more harmful than carbon dioxide. The Kyoto Protocol is committed to reducing carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions to keep the planet safe.
 
These scientists have provided detailed calculations in their report supporting a vegetarian diet. The GHG of a non-vegetarian meal is 17 per cent higher than for a vegetarian meal. Milk and milk derivatives emit more GMG only because larger quantities of cattle feed and water are required to produce milk as compared to food grain production.