Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Hairy Potato and other Hunger Busters

Buckminster Fuller believed that hunger and poverty could be stamped out worldwide and that it could be done within only one generation.  So did my grandmother.  She always said to me, "The world doesn't have to change - people have to change."
There is in fact enough to go around.  According to Ismail Serageldin, director of Egypt’s Library of Alexandria and the former chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the key is for this goal to be motivated by collective outrage rather than by economics.  That's pretty much what my grandmother meant I think.

The independent agricultural research centers who are coordinated under CGIAR come up with neat ways to fight hunger through science.  The International Potato Center in Peru for example developed the "hairy potato" in 1993 through genetic engineering. This potato plant grows stiff hair-like protrusions on its stem and leaves which secrete a sticky liquid. Hungry bugs just can't get to it. This saves millions of dollars each year on insecticides. Another of CGIARs member centers is the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Scientists here focus on developing and improving sturdy, resistant food sources like the cassava. There is also the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and a number of other agricultural science centers set on ending world hunger and continuing the support of sustainable agriculture.

"It is inconceivable that there should be close to a billion people going hungry in a world as productive and interconnected as ours. In the 19th century, some people looked at slavery and said that it was monstrous and unconscionable; that it must be abolished. They were known as the abolitionists, and they were motivated not by economic self-interest but by moral outrage. We must become the new abolitionists." from Issues in Science and Technology, Abolishing Hunger by Ismail Serageldin, 2009.

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