How Is Science Combating Food Shortages in Africa
How Is Science Combating Food Shortages in Africa
Africa has been fighting a constant battle against starvation for decades. What with an uncontrollably growing population and harsh dry climate, its no wonder that not only Africa, but the world could be in for a big crisis: the lack of food. With over 7 billion people in this world to feed, one billion in Africa, its a wonder that our planet can support this mass population, and the situation is going to get much worse unless there is a solution as to how the shortage of food can be fixed. Since the 1970’s, scientists have experimented with Genetically Modified foods (GM foods). That means that they’ve changed the organisms, and the DNA, in order to enhance some aspects of the food or fix any possible faults. So far, GM organisms have proved to increase food production, which is a relevant and effective solution. This solution has indeed raised arguments, creating economical, ethical and societal implications.
Genetically modified foods could be the solution to save Africa from the endless starvation and malnourishment. It offers something completely new; it is a biotechnical solution that is different to any other option considered to aid those suffering from the lack of food in Africa. GM crops grow faster, produce much more, need less time and less labor. It would be a permanent solution. Unlike transferring food across the oceans in order to give aid, GM foods would be able to be produced in the countries that actually will need and use them, instead of relying on other wealthier nations to bring it to them. This would also teach these less developed countries how to manage on their own, and not being supported or aided by the more economically developed countries.
Even more positive aspects of this solution are, that these GM crops have longer shelf-life, meaning that they do not have to be consumed immediately, but they can be stored for longer. Furthermore; they don’t require as many natural resources and materials as normal crops, which is good cause Africa itself doesn’t offer that many, which is one of the reasons as to why it’s in the situation that it is in right now. This would give an exceptional amount of aid and hope to the people of Africa as it would fix one major issue that has been developing throughout the years, and help them defeat other problems that their nations are facing.
However, there are always downsides to these new inventions. Firstly, GM foods haven’t been in the know for long enough to know if they have any side affects that humans should be concerned of. Many people resist the idea of genetical modification because of this uncertainty. The foods and crops could always trigger allergic reactions, which might be fatal in nations that offer poor medical aid, or any health impacts for humans and even animals. However, the certainty that these problems exist is only an assumption. For as far we know, there might be no bad consequences or effects that GMO’s might bring. Another issue is how this will work in the nations of Africa.
The leaders of the nations might decide that this is an uncertain and doubtful solution, that might only bring harm to their countries. Or some nations might fear change, even if it could help the starvation issues that they’re struggling with. The only thing that the developed nations could do in this case, would be to try and negotiate as to how this solution can help them, not only temporarily but in the long run as well. Also, it will be a very cheap solution, which will be a major attraction to many nation as their economical situations aren’t that great. Furthermore, the annual cost of individuals having to purchase the genetically modified seeds will be an issue, as the continent is generally very poor.
The effect of growing and consuming genetically modified crops is still unknown, however many possible and realistic assumptions have been made. A possible dilemma is the harm that these organisms could cause to other organisms in the nature. For an example, the mortality rate of monarch butterfly caterpillars has gone up recently, due to the wind blowing pollen from genetically modified B.t corn to milkweed plants, that the caterpillars consume. A nature study was held in order to find out whether this was true or not, and the results were in fact pointing towards the pollen being the cause of death.
There are also countless other victims of genetic engineering, however they cannot be prevented as the toxins that kill the pests are also harmful to other insects. Unfortunately, in order to grow healthy crops without a financial loss, the use of these B.t toxins is essential. Another issue that could arise from this is cross-breeding of these herbicide tolerant crops and the weeds themselves, resulting in a ‘superweed’ that would be immune to these toxins. That could cause in mass destruction of crops and a great financial loss to the farmers, as well as an unnatural new specie.
An issue that could arise within the use of GM crops is the strain on the economies of the nations using them. It would be quite expensive to transport the GM foods across the globe, and it would also take some time. Also, the cost of these seeds can be expected to rise due to the technology used to create them. A more developed country and farm could possibly afford the annual cost of these crops, however a less economically developed country cannot. A solution for this problem could be funding the production and research of GM foods. An example of such a funder is the Rockefeller Foundation, who has founded the research and production of genetically modified rice. GM rice would be a very costly process but with the help of funders and other wealthy companies the cost of expense can be reduced.
Since the population of already 7 billion is estimated to almost double in the upcoming 50 years, the worlds biggest dilemma at the moment is to find a solution as to how to feed all these people and how our natural resources won’t be all used up. GM crops is one of the many solutions thought to solve this problem, however, like the rest of them, it comes with many different positive and negative aspects. Furthermore, since it is such a new invention, and not a lot of research has been done yet, the effects and consequences are unknown.
If the massive population growth could be stalled for a few decades, say by introducing a one-child-policy, then the development of solutions such as GM crops could be completed meanwhile. This would be a really effective way to provide food aid to the peoples of the world, especially Africa, in order to defeat hunger and starvation, and it would also slow down the growth of the population, maybe even declining it.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 30 October 2016
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