December 19, 2012 - M

The problem of starvation: Possible solutions

Food, alongside air and water, is an essential resource for human survival. While these natural resources keep us alive and help life to grow, when they are not available, it would lead to starvation and even death. Sadly, at the turn of the twenty first century, a large number of people are on the edge of starvation. According to United Nations Human Development Report, each year millions of people lose their lives as a result of starvation. In continents such as Asia and South America, which have several developing nations, starvation, which leads to malnutrition and disease, pose a huge challenge to their development. The situation is much worse in Africa, where the societies have not emerged from the exploitation suffered during the colonial period. Having said so, the advanced nations are not completely free of starving people. A small but significant percentage of the population in North America and Europe has very low or no income, which puts them below poverty line. These people are as susceptible to starvation as people anywhere else in the world.

The other factor that indirectly contributes to starvation is political and civil disturbances, which as a result displace people from their homes and into refugee camps. Although politically neutral organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations try to provide food relief to such people, the unstable political conditions make it very difficult. On a more positive note, there are efforts made by international organizations to scientifically arrive at a reliable solution for dealing with starvation. A classic example is the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which has proposed a few practically and economically feasible food supply models that are aimed to put an end to starvation across the globe.

Alongside such collective solutions as that mentioned above, individual nations can also draw up creative programs to reduce the problem of poverty and starvation among its citizens. A case in point is the Asian subcontinent with nations such as India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which have sufficient fertile lands to cultivate the staple foods of rice and wheat. In this region, the problem is not so much the production of rice and wheat as it is their storage and distribution. Year after year, one hears reports of thousands of tons of staples being spoilt as a result of exposure to heat and moisture. In such a scenario, by providing proper facilities for storage and by developing efficient mechanisms for distribution of food, the government can make significant progress.

With advancements in the field of molecular biology and genetic engineering, genetically modified food has come into focus. The concept of genetically modified (GM) food has attracted a lot of criticism as well. Those who oppose GM foods have their valid points and so do those who support it. But the debate is not decisive one way or the other. In these circumstances, the best way forward is to take a balanced approach to cultivating genetically modified crops. Scientists and policy makers can work as a team to address the twin problems of starvation and environmental degradation. The decline of the global environment, with such problems of soil erosion, global warming and air pollution have reduced available lands for cultivation of crops.

The other solution to the problem of starvation is hybridization of staple crops so as to make them more durable and increase productivity. For example, the dwarf rice variety can be interbred with the Mexican dwarf wheat. The resulting hybrid can be cultivated even under dry land conditions and its yield is also relatively more. There is already proof that such a hybrid had been successfully implemented by the government of China to tackle the starvation problem.

In conclusion, it can be asserted that the problem of starvation across the world is not as insurmountable as it seems. With the right mix of modern technology in the form of genetic engineering and better facilities for storage and distribution of harvested crops, the problem of starvation can be resolved once and for all. All it takes is a sincere attempt by the policy makers and the business community to solve this global problem.

General / Society CGIAR / China / GM / India / United Nations /