Scientists have assessed the “biodiversity footprints” of 151 popular dishes worldwide and found that India’s idli, chana masala, rajma, and chicken jalfrezi are among the top 25 dishes causing the most harm to biodiversity. The idli is ranked sixth, followed by rajma at seventh place, while Lechazo, a roast lamb recipe from Spain, has been assigned the highest biodiversity footprint score, followed by four beef or meat preparations from Brazil.

It is no surprise that vegan and vegetarian dishes have lower biodiversity footprints than dishes containing meat, but the researchers found it surprising that dishes with rice and legumes as their main ingredients also had high biodiversity footprints.

“The large impacts of legumes and rice in India was a surprise, but when you think about it, it makes sense,” Luis Roman Carrasco, associate professor of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore who led the study, told The Telegraph.

Carrasco and his colleagues evaluated the impact of the ingredients in 151 dishes on the species richness and range of wild mammals, birds, and amphibians in the cropland used for each ingredient. They assigned biodiversity footprint scores to each dish based on their assessment.

While people typically base their food choices on taste, price, and health, the scientists believe that assigning biodiversity impact scores to dishes could help environmentally conscious individuals make sustainable food choices.

Their study, which was published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, addresses concerns about biodiversity loss caused by habitat destruction as a result of expanding agriculture. Previous research has estimated that the environmental impact of an average household is between 20% to 30% attributed to food consumption.

“In our analysis, the biodiversity footprint represents the amount of species that have been at least partially impacted to produce that dish,” Carrasco said. “The biodiversity footprint gives us an idea of how many species we’re pushing closer to extinction by eating that dish.”

Several studies have shown that non-vegetarian food, especially livestock rearing, has a negative impact on the environment. The cultivation of rice and legumes also has a large biodiversity footprint due to land conversion for agriculture.

India is a top producer of legumes such as chickpeas and kidney beans, and is also a megadiverse zone with an estimated seven to eight percent of species. Rice and legumes are grown in areas that are traditionally hotspots of biodiversity.

A study has identified several meat dishes from Brazil, Korea, Mexico, and chicken jalfrezi, dal, and chana masala from India among the top 25 dishes with the largest biodiversity footprints. French fries were ranked 151 with the lowest biodiversity footprint. Other dishes with a low biodiversity footprint include baguettes, pureed tomato sauce, and popcorn. Aloo paratha was ranked 96, dosa 103, and the bonda 109.

Despite the high scores of rice and legume dishes, it has been noted that India has been successful in coexisting with biodiversity due to its large population and a large proportion of vegetarians. The impact of meat consumption and production on biodiversity would be much higher if Indians were to shift to more meat consumption. This study serves as a reminder that the pressures on biodiversity in India are very high.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

1. Yadav, L., & Upsana, U. (Eds.). (2024). Millets: Rediscover Ancient Grains. BoD–Books on Demand.
2. Sekar, S., & Mariappan, S. (2007). Usage of traditional fermented products by Indian rural folks and IPR.
3. Patil, D. A. (2019). Food Crops: Evolution, Diversity And Advances. Scientific Publishers.
5. Amadou, I. (2022). Millet Based Functional Foods: Bio‐Chemical and Bio‐Functional Properties. Functional Foods, 303-329.

By Editor

One thought on “Top 25 dishes including Idli causing biodiversity damage”
  1. This research provides valuable insights into the hidden environmental costs of food choices. It encourages further exploration of strategies to promote sustainable food systems that balance both biodiversity and dietary needs.

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