Friday, August 27, 2010


Scientists invariably differ in their perception about any problem and it is no wonder that same applies to the issue of world hunger and food security. There are people with conviction who feel that sufficient food will be produced to keep with the growth of population. As against this, many others take an aggressive stand stressing the need for developing newer technologies to dramatically boost food production, lest there will be a world famine due to inadequate supply at some point of time in future. A critical aspect missing in this argument is the logistics of "accessing" to available food due to economic inequities between well to do and poor populations in every country including the richest of them in this world. Here is a perspective on the issue by a group of scientists.

"Instead, says Dr Philip Thornton, a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, two "wild cards" could transform global meat and milk production. "One is artificial meat, which is made in a giant vat, and the other is nanotechnology, which is expected to become more important as a vehicle for delivering medication to livestock." Others identify unexpected hindrances to producing more food. One of the gloomiest assessments comes from a team of British and South African economists who say that a vast effort must be made in agricultural research to create a new green revolution, but that seven multinational corporations, led by Monsanto, now dominate the global technology field. "These companies are accumulating intellectual property to an extent that the public and international institutions are disadvantaged. This represents a threat to the global commons in agricultural technology on which the green revolution has depended," says the paper by Professor Jenifer Piesse at King's College, London".

With reports of food wastage reaching alarming proportions in many developing countries and diversion of food crops to bio-fuel production by developed countries, there has to be a concern regarding accessibility. No matter what dramatic technological improvements are brought about and how much production increase is achieved, poor will remain out of the "food loop" because of their poverty. Recent direction by the Supreme Court of India to distribute surplus food grains, supposed to be rotting in government warehouses, free of cost to poor people is a forerunner of the societal changes that will over whelm the planet in the years to come. Scientists will have to learn live with such realities while undertaking grandiose research programs.


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