Attacking World Hunger From Two Fronts: Biotechnology and Targeted Financial Aid
World Hunger Isn’t Purely Caused By Lack of Agricultural Resources
World Hunger has never been an easy question to tackle. Poverty, uneven distribution of resources, and lack of foods high in nutritional value are some of the biggest impactors that drive higher levels of hunger and malnutrition. Yet, world hunger doesn’t exist because the global food stores are scarce. According to the reports from the United Nations, the world’s current production of grains and other foods are sufficient to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person per day. Yet, a look at the countries with the highest levels of malnutrition and hunger suggests that the issue is more complex than simply adjusting agricultural distributions.
The same reports found that poverty and other socio-economic factors are the most prominent factors behind those affected by hunger. This makes sense, lack of money makes it difficult to purchase foods and generally, foods that are both cheaper and more calorically dense are usually not the healthiest (keep in mind, this is a tendency, not a hard rule). So how do we solve that? First, we use biotechnology and genetic modification to make cheaper foods more nutritious.
Genetically Modifying Foods To Make Them Healthier
Of all the vitamin deficiencies that affect the malnourished populations, vitamin A deficiencies leads to the some of the most serious side effects (including severely weakened immunities, permanent blindness, and death). Bio-geneticists have been hard at work to genetically modify foods that are widely available (and relatively cheap) in order to improve their nutritional benefits. One such success story is golden rice. Golden rice is a genetically modified form of grain with high levels of beta-carotene which the human body is able to convert into vitamin A. Golden rice has been documented as effectively bringing down the levels of Vitamin A deficiency in both Bangladesh and the Philippines. While the future of genetically modified foods is very hopeful on their effects on society, there is still a lot of distrust surrounding these types of foods which has made it difficult to deploy them in other areas of the world.
As the work continues to change public perception on genetically modified foods and their potential benefit, we can now turn our eye to the main culprit behind world hunger.
International financial aid is incredibly complex and doesn’t necessarily inform us of how dire the request for food is or its relation to poverty. Fortunately, our Kiva dataset does. Kiva is an online crowdfunding platform and international non-profit that extends loans and financial services to low income and financially excluded people all around the world. If we look through the available data from 2014–2017 and count how many loans all together were requested over this 3 year period for all food related loans, it’s far too massive to graph. So, what I did instead was count all the food related loans in Kiva and graphed the 5 with the highest loan requests below
Farming and Food Productions are especially of interest because this means that its not only the buyers who are struggling to buy food but that the sellers themselves are struggling to have the resources needed to even maintain their business and sell the needed food (this is also assuming that the majority of this food isn’t exported to other countries which unfortunately is the case in some countries). With all this dire news, is there any reason to be optimistic about the future? As a matter of fact there is.
Everyone Deserves A Fighting Chance
Fortunately, a look at the headcount ratio of the global population of people who fall under the category of extreme poverty (some organizations define this as living on less then a $1.25 a day, for this post, I am using a data set from the World Bank who defines it at as living on less then a $1.90 a day).
Unfortunately, while we don’t have the 2020 numbers yet (as of this blog’s publishing), we can definitely make a strong educated guess that COVID-19 has likely increased the population of people who fall under extreme poverty. However, with vaccine rollouts happening, the continuing advancement of biotechnology, the rolling out of financial aid to countries and individuals that need it, and utilizing effective policies that were clearly working in the past, we can at least give everyone a fighting chance.