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Solutions to hunger in agriculture’s toolbox

We’ve likely all seen commercials on television asking for financial contributions to help feed hungry people around the world. The ads often show shirtless, malnourished children with protruding ribs and flies landing on their faces.

The ads tug on the heartstrings and call on us to help those who are less fortunate.

According to the United Nations Food Program, 870 million people worldwide are undernourished. One in eight fails to consume enough food to lead an active life.

The global reasons for hunger are many – political tyrants, joblessness, and weather disasters to name a few. Personally, this journalist has never been hungry, but experienced a life-changing experience with hunger.

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In 1999, I was a farm journalist in Indiana and travelled to Honduras following Hurricane Mitch. The devastating Category 5 hurricane tore through Central America and caused major damage to urban and rural areas.

Through a fundraiser, Indiana farmers contributed more than $20,000 to purchase food for Hondurans in need. The initial plan was to buy bulk amounts of U.S.-grown food and ship it to Honduras. Concerns over the black market in route to Central America cast doubt on whether the shipment would ever reach the destination.

Instead, the money – all cash - was zipped into a fanny pack wrapped around my waist. I was one nervous American in a foreign country with mega cash. The idea was a person up to no good would likely shy away from a foreigner built on a 6-foot-4-inch frame.

An Indiana Farm Bureau field representative, a U.S. missionary based in Honduras, and I set out on our mission in urban and rural Honduras. Food was purchased at local bodegas (food warehouses). This way the money would help feed Hondurans and support local farmers.

We visited many “homes,” cardboard huts in reality. With two paper sacks of food in hand, a teenage girl answered the knock at one home, saw the food, and broke down in tears. In Spanish, the girl shared that her mother and father had recently died. She and her two siblings had not eaten in three days.

The teenager called us angels. We all cried together.

This experience forever changed my life. This firsthand experience illustrated even more how fortunate we are to have food on the table.

Predictions that the world population, now at 7.1 billion people and expected to reach 9 billion around 2050, pose the question of whether there will be enough food produced globally to feed the growing population.

The agricultural industry will give its best shot, thanks to an evolving toolbox of technology. Biotechnology, irrigation efficiencies, pest management advances, improved fertilization, and other milestones will provide producers with the essential keys to help feed the burgeoning world.

So far, science has showed that crops grown with biotechnology are safe and nutritious. Unless proven otherwise, the anti-biotech crowd needs to get off its high horse and allow farmers and ranchers to feed the world.  

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TAGS: Agenda
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