A couple of months ago, reading an article about world hunger, I found out that someone dies of starvation every 3.6 seconds. Can you imagine that? I tried to understand how we can let that happen but I couldn’t. So, I started wondering what are we–and specifically the scientific community–doing to help stop or even diminish a pandemic problem like hunger.
According to the World Health Organization, hunger and malnutrition are the single gravest threats to the world’s public health. Malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality, present in half of all cases. So, world hunger is not only a quantitative issue, it is also a qualitative matter. People do not die only because they are not able to eat enough food, but because they do not consume some vital nutrients required to subsist.
As a biotech company employee, it was pleasant to know that–for the last two decades–crop biotechnology has been used in two major ways to enhance human nutrition: improving global food security by making more food available and by enhancing the nutritional composition of food.
Maureen Mackey’s article, The Application of Biotechnology to Nutrition, acknowledges, in the next several years, we will see the application of biotechnology to enhance major global staples–such as rice, wheat, corn and cassava grown in Asia, Africa and Latin America, which will be needed to feed the expanded populations in these continents.
Scientists around the world agree about the particular relevance biotechnology will have to ease hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, increasing the nutritional value of food. Gene technology will enable the production of new crop varieties that will produce essential vitamins and micronutrients. This is especially important in regions where access to food is limited and balanced diets are difficult to achieve.
In the last decade, scientists have genetically modified fruits and vegetables to offer higher levels of anti-oxidant vitamins that help ward off cancer and heart disease, and vitamin A to prevent blindness. As other biologically active components in food plants are discovered to have disease-fighting nutritional value, their levels may also get a genetic boost.
Even these achievements are still in a development stage, they indicate a relevant and important role for biotechnology in improving food quality and developing functional foods, particularly those targeted for needy populations in developing countries–such as children and pregnant women.
Nevertheless, great efforts have been made to demonize biotech industry since its inception. I genuinely respect and appreciate the work of many organizations concerned about the implementation of biotechnology improvements in the food chain, even when the U.S. government developed a Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology in 1986 to provide for the regulatory oversight of organisms derived through genetic engineering.
What really keeps me up at night is that even when the scientific community, authorities and experience demonstrate the safety of GMO, some people’s personal agendas keep reducing the chances of survival of 15 million children that die every year of hunger.
10 Reasons We Do Need GM Foods
- Why we need GM Foods
- “The future rests in the soil beneath our feet”
- Helping a Thirsty World
- The World is Bigger Than Your House
Santiago is a Manager of Public Affairs at Monsanto. He was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, post-graduate studies in Social Communication & Media and an MBA in Marketing Management. Prior to working at Monsanto, Santiago taught PR for almost seven years while working as a Communications Advisor for several organizations and industries. He also worked for a multi-national IT company and an Oil & Gas company as PR Manager.