Researchers analyzed the interconnected food, water and energy challenges that arise from the sugar industry in India – the second-largest producer of sugar worldwide – and how the political economy drives those challenges.
Generations of political support for sugar cultivation have helped India become the second-largest producer of sugar worldwide. Now, the country’s commitment to renewable energy could create additional benefits, like conserving natural resources and providing better nutrition to the poor.
Stanford researchers conducted the first comprehensive analysis of India’s sugar industry and its impact on water, food and energy resources through the lens of its political economy – that is, how entrenched political interests in sugar production threaten food, water and energy security over time. The results show that a national biofuel policy encouraging production of ethanol made directly from sugarcane juice may make India’s water and energy resources more sustainable. Using sugarcane juice instead of molasses would also free up land and irrigation water for growing nutrient-rich foods. The research was published July 24 in Environmental Research Letters.
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