Biotechnology and Food Security

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This essay is an attempt to demonstrate why and how biotechnology and agricultural technology have been recommended in the quest to increase food production and reduce its cost. In order to achieve this, relevant concepts and examples will be discussed and a conclusion will then be drawn from the discourse. Anderson (2009) notes that obtaining enough food is an important concern for every nation in the world, and in some countries food shortage is an extremely serious problem. Worldwide, about 840 million people, or about 14 percent of the total population, do not have adequate food. These people suffer from undernutrition, a condition of nutrient deficiency that causes general weakness and fatigue, stymies mental and physical development in children, and makes people susceptible to potentially fatal diseases such as dysentery, whooping cough, and tuberculosis. The majority of the world’s undernourished people live in China, India, Africa, and Latin America. She further argues that creating an adequate world food supply poses two challenges. The first is to provide enough food to meet the needs of the earth’s expanding population, without destroying natural resources needed to continue producing food. The second challenge is to ensure food security—that is, to make sure all people have access to enough food to live active, healthy lives. Just producing enough food does not guarantee that the people who need it are able to get it. If people do not have enough money to buy food—or to buy the land, seeds, and tools to grow food—or if natural or human-made disasters such as drought or war prevent them from getting food, then people are at risk for undernutrition even when there is an adequate food supply. In industrialized countries, poverty typically prevents people from obtaining food; in developing countries, the circumstances that cause food insecurity include poverty, low crop yields, and unproductive economic policies. It is not possible to fix a clear decade or series of events as the start of the agricultural revolution through technology. Among the important advances were the purposeful selective breeding of livestock, begun in the early 1700s, and the spreading of limestone on farm soils in the late 1700s. Mechanical improvements in the traditional wooden plow began in the mid-1600s with small iron points fastened onto the wood with strips of leather. In 1797, Charles Newbold, a blacksmith in Burlington, New Jersey, reconceived of the cast-iron moldboard plow (first used in China nearly 2,000 years earlier). John Deere, another American blacksmith, further improved the plow in the 1830s and manufactured it in steel. Other notable inventions included the seed drill of English farmer Jethro Tull, developed in the early 1700s and progressively improved for more than a century; the reaper of American Cyrus McCormick in 1831; and numerous new horse-drawn threshers, cultivators, grain and grass cutters, rakes, and corn shellers. By the late 1800s, steam power was frequently used to replace animal power in drawing plows and in operating threshing machinery (Evans, 1998). The demand for food for urban workers and raw materials for industrial plants produced a realignment of world trade. Science and technology developed for industrial purposes were adapted for agriculture, eventually resulting in the agribusinesses of the mid-20th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries the first systematic attempts were made to study and control pests. Before this time, handpicking and spraying were the usual methods of pest control. In the 19th century, poisons of various types were developed for use in sprays, and biological controls such as predatory insects were also used. Resistant plant varieties were cultivated; this was particularly successful with the European grapevine, in which the grape-bearing stems were grafted onto resistant American rootstocks to defeat the Phylloxera aphid. Improvements in transportation affected agriculture....
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