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Solving World Hunger Through Food Technology and Innovation

Solving World Hunger Through Food Technology and Innovation
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Solving World Hunger Through Food Technology and Innovation

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 690 million people, that’s 8.9% of the world’s population, go hungry everyday. In 2019, this number was 680 million and has grown by nearly 60 million in the last five years, only confirming the rising concerns over global food insecurity and under nourishment.

Understanding world hunger and food insecurity

Common reasons for world hunger include:

•         War, conflict, and political instability

•         Poverty

•         Social-economic challenges

•         Poor food distribution

•         High population growth

•         Natural hazards, bad weather, pests, diseases, etc.

•         Bad agricultural economics

Most of these factors affect food security on a national level, but that doesn’t stop food shortages from rippling across international borders. Today, overpopulation and climate change are the two biggest threats to global food security.

Overpopulation puts tremendous pressure on the existing food supply infrastructures, leading to the destruction of natural resources for agricultural land, high prices and demand for foods, andfast-tracked farming practices that yield low-nutrition produce.

The average global temperature has risen by 1.15°C (2.07°F) since the industrial revolution. This may not seem like much, but scientists warn that amere 2°C rise in global average temperature will be catastrophic and irreversible. Besides, we’re already feeling the consequences of a warming planet, such as rising sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns, and worldwide climate change. Global warming and climate change adversely affect the planet's ecosystem, biodiversity, and agricultural practices, both directly and indirectly.

What are we doing to beat food insecurity?

Food insecurity is an urgent global problem. International humanitarian agencies, governments, world leaders, and individuals all have a role to play in promoting long-term food security.

Scientists and engineers have not been left behind in fighting food insecurity either. There are entire academic disciplines such as food science, genetics, biochemistry, and agriculture technology dedicated to finding world hunger solutions by turning the art of agriculture into a science. Let’s look at some of the innovations that are helping to secure food availability:

Sustainable agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is a complex idea that touches on three main areas: healthy environment, social and economic equity, and profitability. It involves every person or entity in the food system, including farmers, food processors, distributors, retailers, and waste managers. However, sustainable farming generally revolves around good stewardship of the natural resources that agriculture relies upon. It focuses on working with nature to produce food rather than against it – a concept known as agroecology.

With the help of various scientific methods, sustainable food systems maximize yield quantity and quality while minimizing the negative environmental impact of food production practices.

Sustainable agriculture is catching on in all parts of the world as a more economical and efficient way of prod

  • Agroforestry
  • Aquaponics and hydroponics
  • Renewable energy sources
  • Organic farming
  • Natural soil fertilization and pest control methods
  • Integrating livestock and crop farming to manage and reuse waste

Alternative food sources

Meat is a popular food across the globe, and its production and consumption rates are at an all-time high. Sadly though, meat is a grossly inefficient food source. And not only that, meat production contributes significantly to carbon and methane emissions. Let’s put all that into perspective:

  • It takes up to 5,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, but only 257 gallons to grow one pound of soybeans.
  • A staggering 30% of the earth’s surface is used for livestock farming.
  • Some livestock rearing practices are inhumaneor unethical.
  • Livestock accounts for 14.5% of allanthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Meat-based diets contribute to obesity, resistance to antibiotics, and other adverse health conditions that consumenational resources to treat.

In short, you can feed more people and more cost-efficiently on crops rather than meats. However, getting everyone to turn vegan is completely out of the question. But that’s where science comes in.

Dozens of companies are already testing and selling lab-grown meat cultured synthetically without slaughtering any animals. Another approach is taking plant-based protein products, such as soy, and processing them to have meat-like texture, flavor, and aroma. We are still a long way from mainstream meat alternatives like these, but they show great promise in helping achieve food security without asking too much of the consumers.

GMOs

GMO is a touchy subject, especially at the consumer level. So, let’s just say there are good and bad GMOs for now. On the bright side, genetic modifications on plants and animals have given us high-yield and hardy livestock and crop varieties. It's safe to say that agricultural yields would be nowhere near their current figures without GMOs.

Even today, scientists continue to enhance agricultural productivity through new and improved gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9, Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs), and TALENs.

The weight of food insecurity

With food being the most basic human need, food security is a huge deal. In fact, eradicating world hunger and improving nutrition is the second goal in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But achieving food security is a lot more complicated than just producing enough food to feed the world. World hunger is a multifaceted problem calling for combined efforts from various social, economic, and political sectors. But it's good to see the scientific community pioneering and improving result-oriented strategies for combating global food insecurity.

More references:

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

Five ways the meat on your plate is killing the planet

Sustainable Meat Alternatives

New Gene-Editing Techniques Could Transform Food Crops--or Die on the Vine

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Oli Kang

Oli Kang is a working mum who has a passion for teaching and all things educational. With a background in marketing, Oli manages the digital channels and content at Courses AU.

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