SSCP-DTP student Rogier Hintzen considers the role of genetically modified crops in eradicating hunger.
Global food production seems to be doing rather well on the surface. With the world’s population breaching the 7 billion mark, undernourishment rates have fallen in line with the Millennium Development Goals (soon to be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals, to be finalised later this week in New York).
However, 1 in every 9 people are described as ‘hungry’, a number which masks striking regional variation. The associated mortality incurred by undernourishment is more pronounced than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Clearly there is further headway to be made. With FAO reports showing that on the one hand we produce enough food globally to lift everyone out of hunger and on the other that there are large yield shortfalls (e.g. 76% in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 in 4 people are classified as hungry), it seems there must be a solution within reach.
Agriculture under pressure
Unfortunately, the costs of increased food production have had pronounced effects on the health of the biotic world and the spectre of a Malthusian overshoot looms large again. There is evidence that the scale of disturbance caused by the expansion and intensification of agricultural practices have caused us to breach important thresholds in the Planetary Boundaries Framework.