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SDG number 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Megan DeYoung

Food, glorious food.  Unless you don’t have enough.  Or it doesn’t nourish you.  Or the food destroys the environment.

This weekend driving through my home state of Illinois – part of the US corn belt – past field after field of bright green crops, I wondered about SDG number 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture – and how we can solve this complex agriculture problem. Today 925 million people are hungry, and experts say the number will grow as an additional 2 billion are added to the global population by 2050.

Science is our solution.

Goal-2

Individuals have to start believing in science again.  Move past the scare tactics and twisted facts.  Get educated.  Scientists have been modifying crops for many, many decades without push back until recently.  How do you think you got that new apple you love so much or the sweeter corn on the cob you enjoy in the summer?  Let the science speak.

Companies need to apply science from a local perspective.  Really learn the agricultural and cultural challenges on the ground all over the world.  Don’t just import a solution from one region to another.  Think long-term and about different ways to do business – different buyers, different ROIs, different partners.   Xylem is doing this with its water pump that addresses cultural, agricultural, and local economic factors in India and parts of Africa.

We need markets that work for everyone.  Business and government are going to have to be global here.  Work together to get the right policies in place to help everyone, not just someone.

Don’t think this is just a developing country problem.  People everywhere are hungry and malnourished.  Take the US as an example – a place where many think we can’t possibly have a problem.  California is running out of water and farmers can’t grow crops.  In 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children.  We need to solve this problem everywhere.

Science is our friend.  Use it to develop seeds, farming equipment, and food and train farmers so we have enough of the right food grown in a sustainable way to end hunger.

No one should go to bed hungry.

Megan DeYoung Director, Corporate Citizenship.

You can view the full SDGs 2015 blog series here.

Comments (4)

  1. Richard King says:

    Megan, thanks for drawing attention to some of the important roles that businesses can contribute to achieving more widespread food security. I’m a little surprised by some of the figures in your post though.

    The official estimate of there being 925 million people undernourished globally was published in 2010, on the basis of what is now known to be some deeply flawed projections about the impacts of the global economic downturn on developing countries’ economies. The FAO (whose figures are used for monitoring progress against the current hunger MDG target) have published several revisions since; most recently last month. This put the figure at 795 million people (http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/288229/icode/).

    I also wonder if you could clarify which experts expect the ranks of the hungry to grow by ‘an additional 2 billion by 2050’? Given that the global population is expected to swell by roughly the same amount over the same time period (from 7.3bn today to 9.6bn in 2050), that would be a spectacular and catastrophic failure of our collective effort, especially in light of the stated ambition of the draft SDG 2.

  2. Megan DeYoung Megan DeYoung says:

    Thanks for the reply. The figure of 925 million was taken from the UN’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform on food security: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/foodagriculture

    It sounds like the UN’s figure is a little out of date so thanks for flagging the update.

    Regarding your comment on the 2 billion, I meant this to refer to global population increase. I agree that was not clear in my original post so I have edited that sentence accordingly to make it clearer.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply. I know Oxfam is particularly engaged on these issues and recognize the importance of having an accurate baseline for the figures to the topics which the SDGs focus on.

  3. Great blog Megan. The strides that have been made in recent decades in terms of development and poverty-reduction wouldn’t have been possible without the technlogical advances that enabled the “Green Revolution”.

    I don’t think concerns about modern advances like GMOs are necessarily “anti-science” though (once you get past the “Frankenfoods” scare tactics). If there’s one thing I learned from watching James Bond movies, it’s that science can be dangerous in the wrong hands. There’s a big difference between selectively breeding a juicier apple or genetically modifying a more nutritious grain of rice, and using GM to create a monopoly that forces poor farmers to buy sterile seeds and expensive pesticides.

    It’s been interesting to watch the anti-GM campaign grow in the US over the last few years. The CEO of Monsanto recently admitted to “hubris and naivety” when it comes to the consumer backlash – a classic case of failing to engage with your stakeholders!

  4. Alan Hayes says:

    Science used in service of reducing waste improving efficiency is a worthy friend. Reducing over consumption is more impactful than improving yield in my view. Let us lend our scientific brains to this challenge and make a sound business case for it.

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