Sunday is World Food Day, the day to commemorate the founding of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This year’s theme is Leave NO ONE Behind, meaning we must ensure everyone has access to enough high-quality, nutrient-dense food.
Luckily, this goal can be accomplished with biotechnology.
In 2021, there were 828 million hungry people around the world, an increase of 46 million since 2020 and an increase of 150 million since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
At the same time, however, one-third of the food that is produced across the world is lost or wasted.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), one of the main causes of hunger—along with persistent poverty, armed conflict, and economic shocks—is food loss. Food loss also entails a waste of the resources—such as energy, water, and land—that are utilized to create food.
“Conflict, climate change, slowdowns and downturns, inequality, rising food prices are denying progress to many, limiting progress for us all,” says the UN FAO. “Sustainability starts with equal opportunity—more and good quality food for all.”
Biotechnology can help address hunger, food waste
However, there’s good news. Biotechnology presents many opportunities for addressing the effects of supply chains, climate change, and food waste on hunger and our global food supply.
In particular, gene editing is creating crops with improved drought resistance, increased shelf life, and less food loss and waste, as well as crops with improved nutrition to feed the globe and even food animals that can handle high temperatures.
Fortunately, a lot of countries are paying attention. Kenya, where 3.5 million people suffer from acute hunger, recently lifted its ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to address drought. The United States has approved the first genetically modified crop for commercialization under new standards: a purple tomato with higher nutrition content.
However, some countries still have work to do to develop and deploy biotechnology in the food supply–notably Mexico, which is still pushing a GMO corn ban that would reportedly cost the United States and Mexico billions of dollars.
Read more: Biotech can boost agriculture productivity, sustainability