Hunger: Another Major Problem That Won’t Be Solved

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It has been widely assumed for many years that the problem of worldwide hunger could be solved by financial and food donations from rich nations, improved training of farmers in nations with food shortages, and genetically improved seed. The assumptions have proved faulty. The hunger problem will worsen as nations buckle down under austerity pressure and the number of people without food grows with the overall population. As sad as it is, the hunger problem cannot be solved.

A new report titled “Food Security and Climate Change” offers projections that the number of undernourished women and children under the age of five will increase very substantially within a decade. The figures on which this is based are stunning:

Today, 495 million women and children under 5 in the developing world are undernourished. That is 150 million or one in four in Africa; 315 million or one in seven in Asia; and 30 million or one in 11 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

About 465 million additional women and children under 5 will be living in developing countries by 2020, bringing the total population of this group to 3.6 billion, vastly increasing food demand.

Thus, in 10 years, the compounded impact of climate change and population growth could increase the number of undernourished women and children by 20 percent.

The solutions the report offers are untenable, because they involve radical political changes in a number of countries and considerable alterations in the way businesses address pollution.

The report suggests “Interventions to address food and nutrition security.” That presumes large contributions from developed nations, as well as some developing nations like China. That money is not available because of economic trouble in most of these countries.

Another suggestion is “Mobilizing political leadership to reduce greenhouse gases.” But many political leaders and executives at large companies do not believe in global warming, or they conveniently want to ignore it for financial reasons.

Another suggestion: “Promoting nutrition-sensitive and climate-resilient agricultural practices.” No one can plant crops in perpetually arid land, and Monsanto (NYSE: MON) is not giving out superior seeds, created by hundreds of millions of dollars in research, to poor countries.

And yet another is “Promoting education,” which is another solution that will not alter climate and crop yield problems in many of the poorest nations. Agricultural production would need to multiply many times for some of these poor countries to be barely able to feed their own populations.

The solutions offered by this report are naive.

Douglas A. McIntyre