how many people go hungry?
Hunger and malnutrition plague millions of people globally, but just how many people go hungry?

Statistics show that 842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. The vast majority of these hungry people, about 827 million, live in developing countries, where 14 percent of the population is undernourished. Asia currently has the largest number of hungry people, over 500 million, but it is Sub-Saharan Africa that has the highest prevalence of hunger and malnutrition. One out of six children, 100 million children in developing countries, is underweight. Throughout the world, one in four children’s growth is stunted from malnutrition, particularly in these developing countries. Poor nutrition causes nearly half of deaths under the age of five, totaling 3.1 million children a year.

Since 1990, global hunger has been reduced by more than 34 percent, but roughly one billion men, women, and children are still food-insecure. Since the federal government began Food for Peace in 1954, more than three billion people in over 150 countries have benefited directly from U.S. food aid. An increase in this assistance would make substantial changes throughout the world. WFP calculates that $3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.

The world produces enough calories for every person on earth to eat around 2700 per day for each human. Millions of people go hungry not because food is lacking. Rather, many of these calories are not used to feed humans. One-third is used to feed animals, 5 percent is used in the production of biofuels, and up to a third is simply wasted. The current system in place allows the wealthy half of the planet to eat well while the rest of the world struggles to eat at all.

Many organizations and programs aim to reduce global hunger. Supporting peasant farming is one key factor in this goal, but it is equally important to rein in Western-style culture and the standard the American diet creates.

-Elizabeth Malfaro

Sources: World Food Programme, Bread for the World
Photo: USAID

genetically modified bacteria
Over the course of the past 50 years, scientists, engineers and academics have unlocked the secrets of energy efficiency by producing technologies with the capacity to harness wind, solar and nuclear power. Scientists have additionally focused their research on developing viable oil substitutes – particularly ethanol and biomass energies – that can be used to produce heat and electricity. Yet the future of global sustainability and decreased warming will depend on the expansion and improvement of these technologies.

The Huffington Post and The Mother Nature Network recently released profiles on Dr. Ka-Yiu San, a bioengineer who discovered a method for turning plant waste into fatty acid. This fatty acid is the beginning ‘ingredient’ in a synthetic compound – a compound that can be converted into an artificial diesel fuel or oil-like lubricant. The base of the compound comes from a genetically modified bacteria, and specifically a strain of the E. coli bacteria, which “converts sugar-heavy hydrolysate (inedible cellulose from sorghum) into fatty acids.”

According to his reports, San’s fermentation process of the genetically modified bacteria “generates an 80 percent to 90 percent yield of fatty acids from what the science team calls ‘model sugars’”– a process he believes has the potential for an even greater yield. It may take numerous rounds of tests and several years, however, before the E. coli strain is ready to be used in a wide industrial setting.

San’s research hasn’t been adapted into a large scale project, but the implications of his discovery are immense for developing countries. Though some biofuels have potential drawbacks such as aggressive land, water and resource requirements, air and water pollution and increased food costs, San’s research is promising. His E. coli strand can use plant waste efficiently; this provides an avenue for agriculture based societies – like those in Africa and rural Asia – to use their abundant plant waste in a productive way. In areas where electricity and energy access is scarce, a technology like this could have an unspeakably large impact.

— Allison Heymann

Sources: The National Resources Defense Council, Huffington Post, EPA
Photo: ScienceDaily