GM golden riceRice is a staple crop in Asia that provides 30-72% of the energy intake in the region. Many children in these countries rely on meager amounts of rice and almost nothing else. Enter genetically modified (GM) rice. GM golden rice is a revolutionary modified rice crop, characterized by its golden color and vitamin A fortification. This biofortified crop works to alleviate the issue of malnutrition in Asia, especially among children.

Vitamin A

In Bangladesh, China, India and elsewhere in Asia, there is a vitamin A deficiency problem. Annually, vitamin A deficiency results in the death of several million children and blindness in 250,000, according to a study done by WHO. Half of these children die within 12 months of losing their sight.

GM golden rice allows for beta-carotene (a Vitamin A precursor) synthesis in the edible portion of rice. This process may prove to be a promising remedy to this widespread vitamin deficiency. The body can actually use beta-carotene in the edible portion of rice, rather than the rice’s leaves. Not only is it usable, but it can supply 30% to 50% of a person’s daily vitamin A requirement.

Other Benefits

Besides the nutritional benefit, GM golden rice also lasts longer than its non-GM counterparts. A Purdue University researcher found that some GM foods have an increased shelf life by a week longer than it would have originally. Foods that can stay fresher longer help impoverished regions store food and aid food distribution across long periods of time.  

Furthermore, modified foods, like GM golden rice, are routinely screened for safety. Simon Barber, director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio, the European biotech industry association, stated that before anything may be imported into Europe and used as animal feed or as an ingredient in food for humans, it had to travel through a security approval process.

In addition, the two genes inserted into GM golden rice, plant phytoene synthase and bacterial phytoene desaturase, are innocuous to the human body. Further, Dr. Russesll Reinke, IRR Program Lead for Healthier Rice,  stated that test trials in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. found this rice to be safe for consumption.


As technology rapidly evolves, people will have reservations about the unfamiliar processes involved. However, GM golden rice has continued to be a proven and effective supplement for adequate nutrition. With new technological solutions, like GM golden rice, food shortages can continue to decrease.

Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

Ice Cream Will Not Solve Poverty in Zimbabwe
New data from the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has listed Zimbabwe as one of the poorest nations in the world.

While poverty in Zimbabwe has been an issue for quite some time, these new statistics help place it in a more concrete context. According to the data, 72 percent of the country’s population live below the poverty line, earning less than $1.25 daily.

As poverty in the country grows exponentially, President Robert Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe have announced plans to place Alpha Omega, their personal brand of ice creams and chocolates, into local grocery stores.

Alpha Omega was conceived as a direct response to Nestle pulling its facilities from the country due to pressure from human rights activists. While Alpha Omega provides Zimbabwe with new means to produce its own food, it’s a small solution to a much larger problem.

The WFP spotlights several problem areas that are further contributing to Zimbabwe’s crippling poverty. According to the report 72 percent of the country are currently living below the poverty line, and 30 percent of the 72 percent are “food poor” or suffering from HIV and AIDS.

“In recent years, food production in Zimbabwe has been devastated by a number of factors including natural disasters andeconomic and political instability,” states the WFP report on Zimbabwe. “Food and nutrition security remains fragile and subject to natural and economic shocks in Zimbabwe, with chronic and persistent rates of undernourishment.”

Alexander Jones

Sources: Mukori, Visser, WFP
Photo: Nehanda Radio


1.76 billion tons of food is wasted globally each year. Food waste is caused by buying or preparing more food than necessary, and not cooking or eating food purchases at all.

To solve this problem and to alleviate world hunger, a group of Swedish master students created FoPo Food Powder. The product is created by turning cheap, nearly expired produce into powder form. By freeze-drying the food, pressure is lowered and water is removed, which results in longer-lasting nutrition in powder form.

Team members Kent Ngo, Gerald Marin, Vita Jarolimkova, Lizzie Cabisidan and Ada Balazy hope that their discovery can help end world hunger and minimize food waste.

The team has three objectives: reduce food waste by turning it into an innovative food product that can be used by people all over the world; extend shelf life while preserving all the nutritional properties and taste; give ugly and expiring food a chance.

“We are not into using a new product or new technology, but creating value out of the inefficiency of the food system,” Marian says.

So far, the powder comes in three flavors: banana, raspberry and mango. The powder retains 30-80% of its nutritional value and can be topped on yogurt and ice cream, baked into recipes, and blended into smoothies.

FoPo Food Powder also offers benefits for food producers and retailers. They can donate or sell their unsellable food, buy FoPo and incorporate it into their recipes, and sell FoPo for a source of good nutrition without additives.

Even further, FoPo offers hope for disaster relief, military and space needs, and providing nutrition to impoverished locations.

Since beginning their project in December 2014, the team has discovered that powdered food is becoming more accepted by consumers, and freeze-drying preserves nutritional value better than other techniques.

FoPo won the Ben & Jerry’s Join Our Core crowd-funding and placed runner-up for Thought For Food Summit, a challenge that helps students with projects to make the world a better place. Currently, FoPo is a finalist for MassChallenge, a community that helps early-stage entrepreneurs with their projects.

FoPo also receives support from both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Philippines. They are currently launching a test run in natural disaster areas of the Philippines. Local farmers near the test sights will also be donating fruits such as pineapples and mangoes to the trial run.

The team continues to raise awareness and money about their product. With funds, they can find a manufacturer, acquire legal advice and perform further safety testing.

The team hopes to sell to grocery stores and online to big manufacturers in the near future. They also hope to create more flavors of FoPo, see more consumers interested in their product, and feed 9 billion people healthy and nutritious food produced from wasted food.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: FoPo Food Powder, Mashable, Mother Jones
Photo: FoPo Food Powder


As worldwide poverty rates are reduced, it is expected that a decrease in malnutrition rates follow suit. However, new findings have shown that as people come out of poverty, a new type of malnutrition could take hold, with new and dangerous risks to their health.

The world of public health continues to change with populations and communities when new causes for concerns arise. Oftentimes, as countries become more developed, they become more urbanized. As people come out of poverty they often migrate to cities to find work. The most recent data estimates that by 2050, 70% of the global population will be living in cities. With such a high rate of urbanization, concerns for not only infrastructure, but also for health come up. The traditional health concerns for rapidly urbanized areas include issues of air pollution, overcrowding, trash, water use and infrastructural capacity. Recently, researchers are looking at a new health concern–the adoption of a western diet.

The western diet is characterized by major consumption of refined sugars and fats, animal products and overly processed food in conjunction with less consumption of plant-based foods. Basically, this means people consume more fats, sugars, salts, and meats, and less fruits and vegetables. This translates to more calories with less nutritional benefits. The United States has been coping with this problem for years now, as this type of diet leads to a plethora of health problems including obesity, diabetes and even cancer. We have seen in the United States how instances of “food desserts”—areas with little access to fresh, healthy foods, are related to lower income and urbanization rates and have been battling the outcomes of such. Now the problem has spread to become an even larger global health concern.

As developing countries become more urbanized, though poverty may be reduced, malnutrition and quality of life may remain stagnant, for other reasons. The programs in place that are aimed at alleviating these problems in poverty stricken areas are not targeting this new version malnutrition, which could lead to new dangerous trends. As large corporate fast food chains invest in markets abroad, populations coming out of poverty and into the city will likely be enticed by low prices and availability, similar to developed countries. Often times in developing countries people rely on subsidence farming which provides people with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and grains. When these people no longer need to farm to survive but are still at fragile income levels, they are likely to fall victim to the cheaper, high caloric, low nutrition foods that will end up harming their health.

The good news is that these developing countries are experiencing economic growth, and individuals are coming out of poverty. Hopefully, as today’s world health leaders are much more aware of the very real risks that a western diet poses on one’s health, the threats to the health of these people and of these nations can be improved without the risk of falling back into a new kind of malnutrition.

– Emma Dowd

Sources: CNN, Huffington Post
Photo: CNN

Years ago, prospective homeowners would go to local real estate agencies to look for housing. It used to be that real estate agents held exclusive knowledge of the local and national housing market and that any buyer had to go through their local agency to find and purchase a new house.

Today, companies like Zillow Inc. and Trulia Inc. streamline the process with their online platforms. They offer searchable databases of real estate data for free to any online user, and make profits on advertising and agent listings. Together, both companies dominate the online marketplace and have 68.4 million unique users as of June.

On July 28, Zillow Inc. announced it had agreed to acquire Trulia Inc. for $3.5 billion in stock transactions. The purchase comes at a time when both sites are booming with user interaction, but profit from the online platforms is not yet optimal. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff believes the acquisition of Trulia Inc. will help both companies cut costs and increase efficiency overall. As the Chicago Tribune reported, Rascoff told financial analysts that both companies “independently [have] very large rental audiences and…both [are] in the early stages of monetizing those rental audiences.”

The deal has the potential to help consumers engage with real estate data more efficiently and at a cheaper price, but the money spent on Zillow’s acquisition is substantial. If spent on advancing the interests and development of the poor, that money would have a tangibly greater social impact.

The World Food Programme (WFP,) for example, recently announced that it was unable to provide food to nearly 800,000 due to budget shortfalls. United Nations WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres urged donors to provide an additional $186 million in funding to provide food rations to nearly 800 thousand. If not, food aid would have to be cut, threatening already high levels of malnutrition and anemia among refugee populations.

If the same money that was spent acquiring Trulia Inc. went to providing food to refugees, approximately 15.1 million more refugees would benefit from food rations from the WFP. Put another way, 2.4 million refugees depend on food aid from the WFP each year. If $3.5 billion was invested, every African refugee would have his or her nutritional needs met for over six years, based on U.N. and WFP figures.

The money spent on advancing the online potential of the real estate industry is an important development to consumer interests; however, even small monetary developments can have significant impacts when invested in the poor.

– Joseph McAdams

Sources: Chicago Tribune, LA Times, World Food Programme
Photo: LA Times