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How We Can Stave Off the Hunger Pandemic

Cornelia Poku
Cornelia Poku
January 13, 2021

Science experts have been sounding the alarm since March when lockdowns started, that this pandemic is a drill for the impending climate change pandemic.

 “Many organizations have warned that COVID-19 is only a precursor of what climate change will mean for food security,” Cormac O’Brien and Thin Lei Win wrote in a new article for the World Economic Forum.

With a warming climate comes an increase in diseases, an increase in pests, and a decrease in animal and plant foods as they struggle to survive the unusual weather patterns and fires.

This pandemic has forced 1 in every 33 people on the planet to rely on “humanitarian aid,” O’Brien and Win explained in the article. This is a 40% increase compared to the previous year. It’s terrifying.

While governments and large corporations work on important details such as improving emissions outputs and combatting plastic pollution, ag biotech companies are working on how to make food widely available no matter the environmental circumstances.

Ag biotechnology such as GMOs and gene editing can help increase global food security.

At the end of 2020, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) released a report detailing the impact of genetically engineered (GE) foods across the world. And the evidence was overwhelming—GE foods are good for all of us!

Besides benefits such as reducing CO2 emissions and conserving biodiversity, biotech crops have also dramatically increased crop productivity by about $225 billion; providing more food to remote communities and more money to the farmers in those communities.

These GMO crops are bred with features such as drought tolerance and pest and disease resistance. Take the examples of corn, cotton, and summer squash.

Other crops are not genetically modified, but rather gene edited against ravaging diseases—like cassavas which have been edited to survive cassava brown streak disease. Researchers are also working to gene edit a range of fruits and vegetables whether it’s to help them thrive in acidic soil or just increase their freshness and longevity.  

Production of food animals is also under threat with climate change. AquaBounty is working to provide consumers with a delicious GE salmon option that grows faster and more sustainably in inland-based tanks–not in potentially polluted waters. They’re looking forward to their first harvest early this year.

Researchers are also pursuing the development of genetically modified cows that will cut down on methane emissions  so that the world can maintain it’s growing demand for protein.

Frankly, there’s a lot of work to do. We were not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, but with foresight, we can be prepared for the climate change pandemic and the inevitable hunger it will bring to many billions of people. To learn more about the relationship between coronavirus and climate change read Coronavirus Shows Global Response to Climate Change is Possible.