Consider the impact of technology on world hunger today.

Author: Ying
School: Raffles Institution
Year Written: 2020
Grade: A

An award winning photograph shot by Kevin Carter features a starving child being eyed hungrily by a vulture, a picture that accurately encapsulates the issue of world hunger today. With approximately a third of the world’s population living under the poverty line, it is no wonder that world hunger is such a pertinent issue today. While the advent of technology such as genetically engineered crops seems to be the most promising solution to world hunger, it is apparent that the corruption of officials and profit maximising objectives of firms have increasingly thwarted the promise of such technology in resolving world hunger, rendering its impact limited.

The advent of technology appeared to usher in the world’s effective panacea to world hunger, with the introduction of a cornucopia of genetically modified crops, seemingly resolving problems of malnutrition and starvation. Genetically modified produce such as that of frost resistant tomatoes and pest resistant lettuces have increased crop yield exponentially, which would otherwise be destroyed by pests and weather changes. The introduction of golden rice, which is rich in vitamin A, has increasingly eradicated malnutrition in several developing countries. In particular, benefits have been experienced by several inhabitants of African nations, many of who suffer from vitamin A deficiency. As such, advancements in technology have appeared to be the most effective and reliable solution to world hunger.

However, proponents of the view that technology is the most viable solution to world hunger overlooks the fact that successes in the production of genetically modified crops are few and far between, limiting its ability to impact world hunger. As leading British geneticist Steve Jones once aptly quipped, “We thought genetic engineering would solve all our problems, but that turned out to be a false dawn.” The pursuit of technological advancements has resulted in many failures, some even causing detrimental effects to the environment or even consumers. The incorporation of a gene in Brazil nuts into soybean caused several allergic reactions in consumers and had to be recalled. Moreover, the introduction of Bt corn caused huge damage to the ecosystem as it killed all insect larvae indiscriminately, instead of just crop-destroying ones. As such, the limited successes, coupled with failures of many failures of technology and genetic engineering render its impact on world hunger limited. Furthermore, effects of consumption of genetically engineered crops are still under investigation, as it is a fairly new domain. There are still several possible risks associated with it such as increased risks of cancer and mutations. These risks have given rise to many refusing to consume such food, thus limiting the ability of such technology to resolve world hunger.

In addition, corruption of officials and political leaders undermine the already small impact technology is making on world hunger. Approximately 40% of all food and financial aid sent to beneficiaries in developing countries is siphoned off by corrupt political leaders, and this figure could even reach 70% in African countries. As such, even if technology were granted free of charge, or the financial aid granted to harness technology to eradicate world hunger, it may not even reach beneficiaries. This severely limits its ability to solve world hunger. The 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia saw greedy officials pocket a large proportion of foreign financial aid provided to victims thus thwarting the goodwill of such countries. Furthermore, due to barriers established in countries such as North Korea, which houses a large proportion of the world’s impoverished, resistance to foreign aid have caused world hunger to persist in the country. In such nations, even though the financial resources may have been provided to obtain the technology required to reduce the issue of world hunger, it may not even reach intended beneficiaries due to corruption or political barriers erected.

Not only does technology have a limited impact on world hunger, the profit driven motives of research giants around the world may even exacerbate the issue. The profit driven motives of research institutions often cause such technology to be priced at unattainable levels, out of reach of the poor, causing them to function more like businesses rather than research institutions. A salient example would be Monsanto, which attached patents to genetically modified seeds it produced causing them to be priced at exorbitant levels. To make matters worse, these seeds were even engineered to be infertile, thus forcing farmers to purchase a new batch of seeds after every season. This caused many farmers to be mired in debt, while desperately clinging on to the promise of a large increase in crop yield. Many farmers eventually began to lose hope and some even committed suicide in desperation, leading to an increase in farmer suicides in India. Evidently, the profit driven motives of research giants have not only caused technology to be unable to eradicate world hunger, but also led to greater poverty, as farmers have to cough up exorbitant amounts of money to pay for genetically engineered produce, worsening the issue.

However, although hampered by corruption and profit driven institutions, it cannot be denied that technology has brought about some extent of impact to resolve world hunger, though limited. The use of technology to eradicate world hunger is a simplistic and symptomatic one that targets the effects of world hunger. Its use thus has to be combined with other strategies to ensure more effective impacts to resolve world hunger. In order for world hunger to be targeted successfully, it is imperative that we take the bull by its horns and target the fundamental flaws and root cause of world hunger. As the world population grows to unprecedented levels with an estimated 2.5 billion more mouths to feed by 2040, where most of the skyrocketing population is due to increases in population of developing countries, it is crucial that strategies that target population growth be implemented. Without such strategies, even with huge advancements in technology, the best possible outcome is an increase in crop yield. Even then, it cannot be guaranteed that the increase in crop yield can catch up to that of population growth. Hence, the effect of technology, unless used in conjunction with other strategies to control population growth, will always be limited.

In conclusion, technology, unless used with other strategies, has limited impacts on world hunger. Governments around the world should come together to address this pressing issue which is plaguing many societies today, with a child dying of hunger every 4 seconds. The use of technology to resolve world hunger should be administered with propriety, to ensure that the poor are given access to it without having to dig too deep into their pockets. Only then, will the impact of technology be maximised to resolve world hunger.