- Nearly 700,000 children went hungry in the U.S. last year. One in eight people in this nation struggled to feed themselves adequately. Both of those startling facts, cited in an NBC report, came before the bottom fell out of the economy. USDA indicates 12.2% of our population “didn’t have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.”As a parent, I can not imagine the pain of not being able to feed my child. As an American, I consider it a disgrace that we allow a growing percentage of our population to be deprived of a basic need. As an agriculturist, I’m disappointed because we have the technology to meet this need – and that of the 854 million people worldwide who are undernourished, according to FAO.
The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. That is a powerful testament to agriculture’s improvement in efficiency and production capabilities. There are infrastructure, resource and land availability issues that are difficult to solve on a global scale, but it’s important to also take a look at tools we have in place to help.
The technology exists to get more nutrition to severely malnourished; for example, biotechnology cassava (a staple in many developing countries) can deliver a day’s worth of vitamins and minerals. American food producers have employed biotechnology – in the form of corn and beans – to decrease pesticide usage 630 million pounds in a decade. That same biotechnology can be used to help minimize environmental impact of animals, increase their productivity to keep food prices steady and even produce pharmaceuticals for treatment of human medical conditions.
Will we be allowed to capture the power of technology to help people? Pundits, such as EU anti-GMO groupies, try to create a vision of frankenfoods with talk of Genetically Modified Organisms” (a term should be banned from the vocabulary of any self respecting food producer). I’ve seen the investment of decades and millions of dollars it takes before securing FDA/USDA approval for any new tool in food production firsthand and am confident in that system.
More importantly, I care about the growing percentage of our population that is hungry. The efforts to drive technology out of food production, remove farmer’s management choices to use biotechnology and create false fear will only result in more hunger. If you’re in food production, let people know that you’re proud to be a part of the solution to feed the 12% of our population who don’t have enough food. If you’re a consumer of food questioning the use of biotechnology, think beyond your own dinner plate and consider those who are hungry.