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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

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Fixing the Global Food System to Eradicate Malnutrition

By Michael McBurney

The article in Science Daily starts ‘Global malnutrition could fall 84 percent by the year 2050 as incomes in developing countries grow - - but only if agricultural productivity continues to improve and climate change does not severely damage agriculture, researchers say’.  The call for action by Dr Thomas Hertel, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University is to increase funding for agricultural research on agricultural productivity and the impact of global warming on food security.

Increasing agricultural productivity is important. However, there is a more immediate opportunity. Food waste. Kate Raworth (@KateRaworth), Oxford University Environmental Change Institute tweeted, ‘the amount of food needed to end hunger is just 10% of what is not even being eaten’.  There is enough food to feed the world today, it is just not available to everyone.

Hunger is not only a developing world problem, hunger exists globally. Even in developed countries. We need to reduce food waste. Between 2010 to 2050, the Pew Research Center estimates that the global population will increase 38%, from 6.9 billion to 9.6 billion. Without eliminating food waste, even greater increases in agricultural productivity must be achieved to feed everyone. Solving hunger and eradicating malnutrition requires more than just calories. It requires balanced nutrition.

Kwashiorkor is a form of malnutrition when there is not enough protein in the diet. Rickets occurs when there is a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. Beriberi is a disease in which the body does not have enough thiamin. Scurvy is the result of vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. And the list of nutrient deficiency diseases goes on. 

Eliminating deficiency diseases is setting a low bar. The objective should be to ensure nutritional adequacy. To raise awareness of nutrition and food security, every tool needs to be leveraged,  including social media. Time does not stop for the hungry. Regardless of socioeconomic status or address, living cells require nutrients.  The production and distribution of nutrient-dense foods to meet individual nutrient demands globally transcends national borders and governments.  

As tweeted from the #EATForum, public-private partnerships can help ‘scale up and speed up’ nutrition solutions. Richard Swannell, Director of design and waste prevention at WRAP, nicely describes the need for multi-sector collaboration when he writes “You can’t make changes to a sector, you have to make them with a sector.” 


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