Is biotechnology the solution to ending world hunger? Maybe, say scientists.
The Devastating Reach of Hunger
More than 800,000,000 people, over 10% of the earth’s population, do not have enough food to eat. Despite significant successes in curbing world hunger over the last three decades, people in both developed and developing nations still struggle for nourishment. Children and the elderly are most at-risk of hunger.
Hunger causes a litany of health effects including stunted growth, decreased mental function, and in severe cases, death. The United Nations estimates over $30 billion is spent annually in the search to eradicate hunger.
Gene Editing as a Hunger Solution
Since around 2014, scientists have seen gene-editing technology as a potential “cure” to the disease of hunger. New technologies, specifically CRISPR-Cas9, make it simple to replace and/or edit genes within some of the most common – and nourishing – plants in the world. Many tout genetically modified crops as the ultimate solution to food insecurity.
But how? How can modified DNA change the course of a problem as ancient as humans themselves? Is it possible that science has finally cracked the code of hunger?
More Yield, Less Land, Fewer Chemicals
On one hand, genomics has allowed researchers to develop GMO crops that better withstand the effects of pests, blight, and drought. A tangential benefit to these modifications is the decreased use of pesticides. In developing countries that lack stringent regulations for chemical pesticides, the implementation of pest-resistant crops might actually lead to lower levels of toxicity overall.
More resilient crops produce more output. Theoretically, higher-producing GMO crops take up less physical space than crops with lower or less predictable yields. The decreased need for acreage on which to plant food is of particular importance in land-scarce locations such as Southeast Asia.
Another way in which gene editing is improving the food supply is by imbuing already-flourishing crops with deficient nutrients like provitamin A. This creates “supercrops” that are vastly nutritionally superior to their predecessors. So-called “golden rice” is an excellent example of this technology in action.
The Promise of Biotechnology
The world’s food supply can be optimized through science.
The biotechnical sciences of genomics and proteomics are consistently revealing new opportunities to researchers and human rights advocates across the globe; IMCS is proud to be part of the story.
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