The words of Noble Laureate and father of the Green Revolution Norman Borlaug, “You cannot create a peaceful world on empty stomachs,” ring true in the present times, when we are facing the mammoth task of feeding a growing population, expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Food insecurity is one of the world’s most pressing problems today, creating directly or indirectly, several other challenges for man—migration being one of them, as highlighted by Elwyn Grainger-Jones, executive director, CGIAR System Organisation. The United Nations too has realised the importance of migration. This year’s World Food Day theme (October 16, 2017) was on Changing the future of migration–investing in food security and rural development.
The challenge of nutritiously feeding the skyrocketing population will be even more severe for developing nations. For instance, in the case of India, the recently released National Nutrition Atlas from the National Institute of Nutrition and the Indian Council of Medical Research, highlights that majority (two-thirds) of the states have a high percentage of malnourished children and a subsequent high level of wastage. This is mainly because of the non-availability or non-accessibility of enough amounts of proteins and micronutrients for pregnant women and children, under the age of five. The recently released 2017 Global Hunger Index also highlights that the prevailing situation is serious for India.
Securing food with biotechnology
There is a range of biotechnological approaches, including both traditional ones like selective breeding, fermentation techniques and modern ones such as genomics, molecular breeding and genetic engineering that can collectively contribute towards achieving food and nutrition security. In the current era, advances in genomics sciences have equipped scientists to decode genomes for any crop species (the recent example being that of pearl millet), where we can also get information on genes responsible for important agronomic traits. Gene information can be used to accelerate breeding programmes and develop high-yielding and better varieties faster. Read more