Starvation not a dead issue

Sitting in my room, I turned on the TV to watch a movie and something caught my attention. It was a new fad diet – the "raw food diet" – in which people eat nothing but uncooked roots, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The program "All Access: Celebrity Diets," on VH1, mentioned that the diet didn’t come cheap – in fact, it was one of the most expensive diet crazes yet, because the food was often difficult to prepare.

After that, the show cut to celebrities like Carol Alt and Demi Moore talking about how the raw food diet was so much healthier than buying food that might be genetically modified and cooked. In the process of praising the diet, they recommended it to everyone, saying the increased prices were worth the health benefits.

Not only is the diet exclusively based upon foods that are uncooked, but all the fruits and vegetables used are organically grown. Of course, this does not help keep the cost of the diet down, since organically grown foods cost around 20 percent more than their non-organic counterparts. Organic foods are the fastest-growing section of the retail grocery industry, earning over $30 billion in annual sales (source: Still, supporters of organic foods claim it’s worth spending the extra money to not risk putting genetically modified foods or pesticides into one’s system.

Now, it’s time for a slight change of focus.

About 24,000 people die every day of hunger. However, thanks to genetically engineered crops, such as golden rice, that number is far lower than it used to be. In 1977, 41,000 people died each day of hunger. By 1987, 35,000 deaths from hunger occurred every day, and by 2002 we had arrived at the current estimate of 24,000 deaths daily (source: Has great progress been made? Absolutely. However, there are still an avoidable 24,000 deaths every day due to a lack of available food.

Despite this, celebrities are telling us we shouldn’t be filling our bodies with genetically engineered foods. Some have even gone as far as to say that they believe all of the world’s food should be organically grown.

Right now, about 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger worldwide, and many more do not have regular, dependable access to food (source: Genetically engineered crops, specially designed to maximize nutritional benefits and grow in a specific environment, have helped save millions in China and India, but still have not been developed for many countries. That means that if we were to stop researching genetic engineering in foods right now, more than 1/6 of the world’s population most likely would die of hunger.

Norman Borlaug, a genetic engineer, has worked his entire life to fight hunger. When he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1970 for his work in genetically modifying foods, he had already saved 1 billion lives. At this point, his continued work has saved billions more (source: "Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity." Atlantic Monthly. Jan. 1997).

Back to America.

Celebrities on VH1 are telling us we should stop endorsing and using genetically engineered foods, and many even go as far as to protest against them. But, in the words of famed magician Penn Jillette, "It’s pretty easy to protest when you’re not hungry."

Sadly, one-third of the world is hungry, and it should be our responsibility as rich, well-fed Americans to try and help feed them, using whatever methods we can. Then, when hunger is no longer an issue, maybe we can start thinking about stopping research on genetically altered plants.

Until then, support scientists in their efforts to save lives through modifying foods. Visit to find ways to support projects and missions that exist to send food and seeds overseas. Genetically engineered crops can save lives, and we should do our best to support efforts to do the same.

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Title: Starvation not a dead issue | Author: Colin MacGregor | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2005-06-01 | Internal ID: 4577