World Food Day - Feeding The World One Crop at The Time

Oct 11, 2021|2Zero Hunger

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World Food Day takes place on October 16th, 2021. The day focuses on the importance of the agri-food system. Every time you eat, you participate in the system! The food we choose to eat and the way it's produced, prepared, cooked, and stored make us an active part of how an agri-food system works. World Food Day also focuses on the importance of food production and calls upon governments to allow access to food for all. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO), more than 3 million people cannot afford a healthy diet. That is about 40% of the world's population. 

Food security is a complex topic. The challenge to achieve food security and end world hunger is one of the world's biggest hurdles. It involves producing and processing nutritious food and giving individuals all the nutrients needed to maintain an active and healthy life. But, this is easier said than done, as we face rising populations, shrinking natural and economic resources, and deterioration of soil health and local ecosystems. 

However, there's hope for food production. Farmers around the world have been applying crop diversity techniques to help keep their soil happy and healthy and yield bigger and better crops. 


 

What is Crop Diversity?

Crop diversity refers to planting different crops (like carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, and beans on the same farm) and planting different varieties of one crop (like growing different types of tomatoes). 

Crop diversity at the farm level improves soil health and quality, reducing the risk of pests attacking crops and encouraging beneficial organisms to grow and enrich the soil, overall improving the economic resilience of farms. So how do farmers manage crop diversity and improve soil health? By applying a rotating cycle of diverse crops. 

Crop rotation is the practice of planting different kinds of crops, one after the other, on the same plot of land; This is done to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure.

For example, let's say a farmer has planted a field of corn. When the corn is harvested, he or she might plant beans in the same plot of land where the corn was before. This is done because corn consumes a lot of nitrogen, and beans return nitrogen to the soil. Therefore, a rotation takes and gives back to the soil, improving its health. A healthy soil yields a healthy crop. In some cases, a rotation might involve two or three crops, and complex rotations might incorporate a dozen or more crops. 

A well-designed crop rotation can also reduce the need for artificial fertilizers and herbicides by better using the ecosystem. 


 

Did you Know Crops Can Have Different Genetic Compositions? 

Genetic diversity is the basis for the survival of plants in nature and crop improvement. In addition, diversity in plant genetics provides an opportunity for plant breeders to develop new and improved breeds with desirable characteristics. Such as farmer-preferred traits like high yield potential, large seed, etc., and consumer-preferred traits such as size, color, and sweetness. 

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms that have had their genes altered in some way. For example, crops like corn or potatoes are usually GMO. Their genetics have been tweaked in a lab to increase the amount or quality of food they produce. So, chances are, you've eaten GMO foods without even realizing it. 

According to the FDA, in 2018, 92% of corn and 94% of soybeans grown in the US came from genetically modified seeds. GMO crops grown and sold in the United States include corn, soybean, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, cotton, potatoes, papaya, summer squash, and a few apple varieties. 

GMO crops have many advantages, but some groups have raised concerns that GMOs may have adverse health effects. Here's what you need to know about the pros and cons of GMO foods and whether you should avoid them or not. 
 

Pros

  • GMOs are designed to be extra healthy.
  • GMOs grow faster than non-GMO crops.
  • GMOs are more resistant to weather or pests.
  • GMOs are often cheaper to produce, need less water, fertilizer, or pesticides to grow. 

Cons

  • GMOs may cause allergic reactions. In one instance, a GMO soybean crop created using DNA from a Brazil nut was unsafe for people with nut allergies and couldn't be released to the public.
  • GMOs may increase antibiotic resistance. 

In the United States, no regulations currently mandate the labeling of GMO foods.

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Thinking Cap On

Get involved this World Food Day. With the help of your parents, join the online conversation on October 16th #WorldFoodDay2021. The future of food is in our hands. So make #WorldFoodDay your day – share your actions online by using the hashtag and telling us how would you help reduce food waste, increase food production or get food to those in need?

Need some inspiration? Head over to our previous blog post, "From Farm to Table: Where does Food come from" to find out how the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) helps local farmers with their Rural Voices program.

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