Humans live a heck of a lot longer now than they used to due to innovations in fields such as medicine, infrastructure and, of course, agriculture. Logic dictates that a safe, secure food supply means longer life expectancies.
Luckily, as we’ve previously discussed, North Americans have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world, and the U.S. is currently ranked #1 in food security. Other countries aren’t so lucky. It may be hard to believe, but it’s important to remember that nearly a quarter of the world’s countries’ life expectancies average 60 years or less and it’s as low as 45 years in some countries. Most developed countries’ citizens have expectancies of 80 years or so, demonstrating the sizeable gap that remains.
The Global Food Security Index focuses on three core issues: affordability, availability, and quality and safety of food supplies. What better road to improvement than greater supply of affordable, calorie-rich staple crops such as rice, cassava or potatoes?
Golden Rice, fortified with beta-carotene, can help provide the necessary nutrients needed by the half-million children who go blind from vitamin A deficiency each year. Half of these children affected with vitamin A deficiency die from the condition.
Research is underway to provide numerous enhancements to cassava to improve its nutrition and tolerance to pests and disease. Cassava, a major staple in the tropical and subtropical developing world, provides a basic food source for half a billion people.
History buffs will know that the Irish Potato Famine of 1845 was one of the worst agricultural disasters in human history, causing Ireland’s population to drop by as much as a 25%. Globally, farmers now spend over $5 billion a year combating potato blight, but that money can and should be put to better uses soon. Researchers have developed a safe and effective biotech potato that can save farmers billions while also increasing yields and reducing their reliance on fungicide sprays.
Each of these biotech solutions are well within our grasp and have the potential to save countless lives. Yet Golden Rice, fortified cassava and blight-resistant potatoes are all facing misguided opposition from those that don’t fully understand the science and safety behind them. The world is in desperate need of these live-saving innovations, so the more that we can educate on the safety and benefits of agricultural biotechnology, the sooner we can achieve greater food security and life expectancy on a global scale.