World Hunger ReliefAlthough it might seem logical to believe that world hunger can be solved by increased food production, top research shows that lack of food is not the major factor contributing to world hunger. In its new report “Farming for the Future: Organic and Agroecological Solutions to Feed the World,” Friends of the Earth reports that world hunger is primarily influenced by the economic and social factors that prevent people from accessing food.

The global network Friends of the Earth advocates for a healthier world by focusing on the economic factors that contribute to environmental degradation. Its report presents four decades of research about sustainable farming techniques that preserve natural resources. The report claims this form of agriculture, called agroecological farming, is the best way to combat the environmental problems that threaten global food security.

Here are the report’s three myths about farming and how argoecological methods can provide world hunger relief.

1. Increased food production will help feed more people.

Farmers already produce enough food to feed about 10 billion people, which is far more than the 7.3 billion who currently live on the planet. Much of this food is wasted or used for purposes besides feeding the impoverished.

Many crops are used for feeding livestock and for biofuels, which limits space for crops that go to feeding the impoverished. Because of this, the report suggests that better farming techniques, reductions in global food waste and consumers shifting to plant-based foods will provide world hunger relief.

Also, smallholders make up about 90 percent of farmers worldwide and produce about 80 percent of food for developing countries. Even so, they are often impoverished due to increasing corporate control and low crop prices. The report calls for public investments in these farmers and better policies to pull them out of poverty.

2. Organic farming cannot feed the entire human population.

According to the report, organic farming is an agroecological farming technique that can make plants more resilient to climate change than plants grown industrially.

The report cites a UC Berkeley study which found that depending on the crop and technique, organic farming systems can produce as much or more crops than conventional techniques, increase profits for farmers, and reduce water toxicity due to the use of less synthetic chemicals. Organic methods also provide low-income farmers with more accessible farming techniques and more job opportunities in their communities.

3. Industrial farming is more efficient in providing world hunger relief than organic methods.

When calculating efficiency based upon health, social, and environmental devastation, industrial methods are not more efficient than organic methods.

“Rather than feeding the world sustainably into the future, the industrial food system is cutting off the branch we’re sitting on by degrading the ecosystem functions we rely on to produce food,” the report states. Although the calorie and economic efficiency of industrial methods might be higher, conventional farming methods destroy the environment and threaten food security for the future.

Since agroecological farming methods cut down on environmental damage costs and improve incomes for farmers, the report presses for policy makers to invest in low-income farmers who use organic methods. It also warns that large-scale trade deals can indebt farmers through input-intensive farming.

Similarly, genetically engineered (GE) farming systems restrict farmers to expensive contracts. Most GE foods go to livestock feed and biofuels instead of to the impoverished. For these reasons, agroecological farming methods are better suited to support small farmers and provide world hunger relief.

Hopefully global policy makers and leaders will consider some of the arguments that Friends of the Earth lays out in its new report in order to help solve world hunger in more environmentally responsible ways.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr

The debate over genetically modified organisms has been on the rise for quite some time, but lately the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has issued a warning encouraging physicians to tell their patients to remove GMO foods from their diets.

GMOs are created in a laboratory and then injected into a food source. The injection contains a gene that carries a desirable trait, and is used to give that trait to another food source. This way, farmers are able to give their plants and animals characteristics that are more appealing to consumers.

At first biotechnology companies, such as Monsanto, promoted their biotech foods as a means to feeding those that are living in poverty and not receiving proper nutrients. The GMO food known as “golden rice” was thought to be the answer to malnutrition because it contained the vitamin beta-carotene needed for vitamin A production. Time Magazine stated that golden rice could help end blindness and death in countries that suffer heavily from vitamin A deficiencies.

On the contrary though, golden rice is not the golden ticket to ending world hunger. In fact, GMO foods have been found to do more harm than good.

Firstly, producing golden rice requires expensive amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, an expense that would not be affordable in developing countries.

Secondly, water is a major contributor to golden rice thriving, and in countries where vitamin A deficiency is prominent clean water is also usually scarce.

Thirdly, the amount of golden rice needed to properly nourish a healthy young boy is 27 bowls a day, but for a malnourished person the nutrients in golden rice may not even be properly digested in the body. One of Monsanto’s developments was a system known as the Terminator Technology, which genetically forms plant seeds that are sterile. Farmers in developing countries usually save seeds from fertile crops in order to produce their next batch of crops, with this Monsanto system farmers would suffer and potentially starve.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has found that GMOs are huge contributors to health problems, such as immune and gastrointestinal system problems, infertility, trouble with insulin balance and failing organs. The best possible method is to stay away from genetically modified foods. CNN offered a list of ways to keep your diet free of GMOs, some examples included:

  1.  Eating fresh produce, usually they are GMO free.
  2.  Buy foods with the non-GMO-verified seal, as food companies are not required to label that their foods contain GMO.
  3. Always buy wild seafood in order to avoid farm-raised and potentially GMO fish.

As for GMO foods’ relation to poverty, fresh is always healthier, cheaper, and more beneficial in terms of nutrients. GMO has been proven to not yield any higher amount of crops than organic and chemical free crops.

Becka Felcon

Sources: The Food Revolution, CNN, International Business Times, GMO Awareness
Photo: LA Times