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Crop diversity can ease food crisis

This summer’s droughts in the United States and Europe have caused price increases of 25 percent for corn and wheat, and 17 percent for soybeans. As a result, Americans will pay more at the grocery store for staple food items and those in other countries, especially the poorest countries, may not eat at all.

Because of the lack of diversified crop growth, the global community has been increasingly dependent on corn. Coupled with the use of corn crops to make ethanol fuel and feed for cattle, we are not able to meet high corn demand in times of severe drought. Corn is unique in that it can be used for several different food and non-food products, but its versatility is meaningless during droughts because of its need for ample amounts of water. Temperature increases resulting from climate change are inevitable; therefore, a change in what we grow and how we grow it needs to be considered.

With the presidential and congressional elections drawing closer, now is the time to act. President Obama recognizes the issue of world hunger and has created initiatives such as Feed the Future, but we have yet to see results.

On a global scale, the World Bank has set up different emergency agencies such as the Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa ($1.8 billion) and the International Finance Corporation’s Critical Commodities Finance Program ($1.6 billion) to deal with the crisis, but we as a global community can do more.

We need to go beyond emergency, reactive solutions and come up with a preventive solution. Let’s feed the future by feeding our researchers to come up with concrete, effective measures.

As concerned citizens, Americans need to seize the opportunity, during these last few weeks before the election, to visit their representatives at each election event and/or debate and ask the hard questions we so desperately want answered. Specifically ask that your representatives vote to reduce the production of biofuel using corn and explore more environmentally friendly and cost-effective options.

This decrease in corn usage will lower the demand for corn, in turn lowering corn-product prices. A combination of the use of biotechnology to create seeds that withstand extreme weather conditions such as droughts, dry-farming (an irrigation technique that preserves the crop’s water intake during rainfall to be used during drier times), and the tried-and-true old agricultural methods of growing diverse crops could all be put in place to take the pressure off corn production and provide diversification of food supply.

So in celebration of World Food Day today, let us think about truly moving into an age of food innovation and creation and not picture ourselves fighting for a chance to eat in the real-life Hunger Games.

Christian Brewer, a Fort Wayne native, is working on her masters of public health degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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