TE Digest Editorial – ‘What’s In Our Food?’

Reproduced here is the Editorial from the latest edition of the Talking Economics Digest (Jan-Jun 2013), which was launched last month on the sidelines of the 6th South Asia Economic Summit.


The ongoing crisis with imported milk products has made one thing clear – all of us need to pay closer attention to what is in the food we consume and take a greater interest in how it is sourced and produced. Globally, consumers are becoming more discerning – they are getting a lot smarter at identifying produce that is good for their health and places a lower burden on the environment. ‘Eating local’ and ‘going organic’ are no longer just buzzwords. The question of “what’s in our food?” is intrinsically linked to another question – “how do we grow what we eat?”. There is now clear evidence that the rise of kidney disease in the country’s North Central Province is linked to the intense use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In this edition, we take a special look at several aspects of this question – a debate on the emergence of genetically modified food and its implications for Sri Lanka; policy options to better regulate imported food products to safeguard consumers; as well as new initiatives like the Colombo Good Market that are expanding the choice Sri Lankan consumers have in eating healthier and all-natural foods.


TE Digest cover photo crop_August 2013Overall, Sri Lanka is going to have to pay closer attention to the environmental impacts of its current growth trajectory. Of course, there will be some compromises. At a relatively low level of growth, it’s not easy to balance “green” policies with “growth” policies. Yet, it must be acknowledged that global climate change is now a reality, and Sri Lanka will, like most developing countries, be at the receiving end of its effects. In May this year, the world broke through a symbolic climatic threshold. The Mauna Loa recording station in Hawaii, run by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced that carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere had breached the 400 parts per million mark for the first time in human history. Scientists have warned that the threat posed to agriculture by environmental hazards like climate change and water scarcity is so great that it could wipe as much as £ 5 trillion off the value of the world’s farm land.


Sri Lanka can demonstrate true leadership in moving towards a greener growth path. Issues of climate change adaptation and mitigation must be considered in this process, But this does not necessary have to go against growth. With clever public policies, it can go hand in hand. This issue brings a special focus on everything ‘green’, including leveraging bio-diversity for sustainable development, managing electronic waste as the country embraces more technology products, the potential water scarcity for agriculture in Sri Lanka, and a special feature on recent green initiatives taking place around the world.


Meanwhile, Sri Lankan experts joined international experts in September to discuss how these issues are impacting at a pan-South Asian level at the 6th South Asia Economic Summit (2-4 September, 2013). One of the ‘Big Four’ themes at this Summit was ‘Managing Water Resources, Food Security, and Climate Change in South Asia’. Several parallel sessions will go into specific aspects of this challenge – ‘Examining Climate Change Impacts and Mitigation across South Asia’, ‘Towards a Green Growth Path’, ‘Political Economy of Water Sharing’, and ‘Meeting the Food Security Challenge’. (To learn more about the deliberations at the Summit, visit http://southasiaeconomicsummit.wordpress.com)


As always, this issue also contains insights on many other areas, including external sector stability, tax incentives for FDI, economic cost of violence against women, labour and health care.


Anushka Wijesinha

Editor – ‘Talking Economics’

(Research Economist, IPS)


To read the latest Talking Economics Digest online, click here