Hunger solutions, food quality rooted in crop biotechnology

Hunger solutions, food quality rooted in crop biotechnology

A finding from a 2014 survey conducted by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) suggests that 75 percent of consumers do not believe U.S. agriculture has a responsibility to grow food to feed people in other countries.

The CFI survey of ‘Mom’s, Millennials, and Foodies’ suggests that the availability of a healthy, affordable food supply is more important. 

A healthy, affordable food supply is vitally important to all consumers, yet I disagree with not helping feed people in other countries. There are too many hungry people worldwide, including in our own communities, to turn our backs on them.

In fact, worldwide hunger is likely to increase as the world population grows. The U.S. Census pegs the current global population at 7.3 billion.

While estimates have predicted 9 billion people will call Planet Earth home by 2050, the latest population projection from the Pew Research Center ups the people ante to about 9.6 billion people by the mid-century mark.

Current hunger statistics in the U.S. and globally are a human travesty. The World Food Progamme says 1 in 9 people around the world today - about 805 million people - do not have enough food for a healthy life.

Globally, this number dwarfs the combined populations of the Americas – North America, Central America, and South America.

Ways to reduce hunger at home and abroad was the theme of a presentation by Alan Bishop of Monsanto during the 2015 Desert Ag Conference held in Chandler, Ariz. in May.

To feed the world’s 2050 population, Bishop says global agriculture must grow as much food in the next 50 years as it’s produced over the last 10,000 years combined. Not only is this a huge challenge but agriculture must achieve this feat on less land and with less water.

To accomplish feeding the world, Bishop says solutions include four primary areas: crop protection, plant breeding, biotechnology, and farm management solutions.

Biotech farming is nothing new - an extension of plant breeding, Bishop says. Farmers and scientists began cross-breeding plants for new traits back in the 1700’s. 

In another gigantic leap, researchers tapped mutagenesis (changing the genetic makeup of seeds) in the 1940’s, and began to harness molecular techniques to precisely modify plants in the 1970’s.

Today, biotechnology in agriculture is too often perched on the hot seat as its opponents spread fear, without scientific evidence to support it that genetically-modified foods could be unsafe. Yet, not a single person to date has become sick from bio-engineered foods.

Today, about one-third of the world's countries either grows or imports genetically-modified crops. Most cheese is made using rennin developed via this technology, instead of naturally-occurring rennin extracted from calf stomachs.

Most diabetic insulin used today is produced using human DNA engineered through biotechnology, rather than extracting insulin from the pancreas of pigs or cows.

In a nutshell, biotechnology is a win-win. It can reduce global hunger while producing healthy, affordable food at the same time.

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