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Across the world, more than 925 million people suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs when the body suffers from an inadequate intake of necessary nutrients, making the body dangerously more prone to diseases and executing ordinary tasks harder. Of the total, an overwhelming 98 percent of the world's malnourished are found in developing countries and 65 percent concentrated in just seven countries: China, India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. It has led to weaker immune systems, growing health hazards, and has become a major cause in the deaths of the 13 million children under 5 who die every year from preventable diseases. Malnutrition is also a leading cause in low birth-weight babies and poor growth. It affects people both physically and mentally, resulting in more strain during physical labor and limiting a person's mental capacity to learn and attain information. Because of lack of iron, 40 to 60 percent of children in developing countries are becoming mentally impaired, and iodine deficiency has been the greatest cause for brain damage and retardation. Malnutrition comprises of two main categories: undernutrition and overnutrition. Undernutrition occurs when the body does not get enough vitamins and proteins. Overnutrition is when the body gets too much. This can cause muscle weakness, heart disease, and respiratory problems. Both conditions impact the body negatively and are leading causes in worldwide deaths and disabilities.
II. United Nations Actions
To combat malnutrition and increase food security, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have been actively engaged in the issue. Under an agreement, UNICEF is responsible for situations of severe malnutrition and the WFP of moderate malnutrition. Stationed in over 70 countries, the WFP has been delivering aid to millions of people through food products high in nutrients such as their High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) and compressed food bars. HEBS are wheat-based biscuits fortified with minerals and vitamins, usually distributed at the beginning of emergencies. The compressed food bars are also another nutrient source given out during disaster relief operations. Both are part of the WFP's toolbox, a series of highly nutritional food products designed to stave off malnutrition. It includes FBFs, or Fortified Blended Foods such as the Wheat Soya Blend (WSB) and more common Corn Soya Blend (CSB). Others are Ready to-Use-Foods (RUFs) such as the Plumpy'Doz for children. A newer addition is the micronutrient powder, used to sprinkle over cooked foods for additional vitamins and minerals. Through products such as these, the UN is working towards increasing global food security and decreasing malnutrition. It is working towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, two of which are aimed at eliminating extreme hunger and reducing child mortality rates.
III. Country Policy and Solutions
South Africa is greatly concerned of the overwhelming global population suffering from malnutrition. As a country who is also afflicted with malnutrition, we understand the importance and need to eliminate this problem and reach the Millennium Development Goals of 2015. As the most important development stage occurs in the first two years of life, we are strongly in support of measures targeted at malnourished infants, children, and expecting mothers. South Africa cannot stress enough the importance of fighting malnourishment in pregnant women. A major aim of ours is to enable all women to exclusively breastfeed their children. To help the worldwide fight against hunger and malnutrition, South Africa has signed all resolutions addressed "The Right to Food" such as Resolution A/RES/64/159 and Resolution A/RES/59/20, stating everyone has a right to safe and nutritious food. Furthermore, we have contributed a total of $33,246,237 to the World Food Programme. From 2000 to 2010, we have supported the program through yearly, annual donations. Through the WFP, South Africa has helped provide aid to the many malnourished.
To fight malnutrition, South Africa proposes three solutions on increasing nutritional value in foods through food fortification, promoting breastfeeding, and encouraging local crops and innovations. Our first solution calls for the fortification of commonly consumed foods with vitamins and minerals, an inexpensive way to protect millions. Nations are to require mandatory fortification of wheat flour and maize flour, 2 of the 5 most commonly consumed food according to the National Food Consumption Survey. Both wheat and maize flours are to be fortified with iron, zinc, folic acid, vitamin A, and B-complex vitamins in the producing mill before selling. The price of fortification of 1 kilogram of flour has been calculated at around US$ 0.00063. Because the price is so small, it is often negligible and has no effect the consumer. Therefore, the extra amount will be sustained by consumers, added to the original product price. To encourage and help millers new to fortification, governments will provide support and assistance for part of the initial investment for equipment and machinery with the aid of the WFP and nongovernment organizations such as Feed the Children. After the procedures and equipment are in place, mills will be responsible for production and management. All nations are encouraged to promote fortification in other products as well, such as vitamin A in sugar and iodine in salt.
Our second solution focuses on promoting breastfeeding among women. To do this, we require that doctors and nurses inform new mothers of the benefits and procedures of breastfeeding. After the child has been delivered, the doctor or nurse will explain the proper steps and help the new mothers successfully breastfeed their infant. Likewise, they can answer questions and concerns of expecting mothers or those interested. To prepare them, there will be a short one week program funded by UNICEF in which the attending will learn the proper procedures and information necessary to help their patients succeed.
South Africa's third and final solution fights malnutrition through local crops and food systems. Often, achieving food security and proper nutrition does not only require quantity but also quality. The aim of this incentive will be to diversify local farms with a wider range of crops with high nutritional value. A series of agricultural projects will begin within each country based on local conditions and favorable crops. The number of projects will be at the country's discretion. These programs will examine the community's commonly consumed crops and the lesser common, local varieties. Since these varieties are often native to only certain areas, they do not yield as high a price and therefore, are not planted as much. However, they often have high nutritional benefits. There are also local legume crops that repair damaged soil. Funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and government, FAO officials will inform farmers in the project region of these different plants and help them introduce it into their farms, educating them on how to cultivate these plants. The initial investment of seeds and certain equipment will be borne by the government and FAO, but it is the farmer's responsibility afterwards. Through these solutions, South Africa hopes to bring the global community closer to eradicating malnutrition and realizing the Millennium Development Goals.
World Food Programme
Ensuring Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms in which the genetic characteristics have been unnaturally altered or modified through genetic engineering. GMOs are often used because of the advantages they provide, such as increased pest and disease resilience. Others include higher crop productivity and crop tolerance. GM crops have also been genetically modified with higher levels of nutrition or injected with pharmaceuticals to combat malnutrition and disease. Examples are the golden rice engineered with large amounts of vitamin and long-lasting tomatoes that are able to tolerate longer transport time. Because of their many flexible uses, GM crops have been a big part in the fight against malnutrition. They are often seen in food aid provided by the World Food Programme. However, much controversy and debate surround GM foods because of the potential unknown risks they may pose, such as adverse health effects and toxic properties. Other major concerns include environmental contamination of GM plants, possible threats to surrounding organisms, and horizontal gene transfer resulting in native plants acquiring the gene. Because of these risks, countries such as Zambia have rejected WFP food aid and others fearing present GMOs. Others such as Zimbabwe and Malawi only accept milled grains to prevent the crops from spreading. These refusals prolong the wait for food and supplies, endangering the individuals within the countries suffering from malnutrition and health hazards.
II. United Nations Actions
To ensure safety of the consumption and use of genetically modified, the United Nations has actively been involved in the issue. Under the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, a set of Codex Standards for GMOs were developed, consisting of proper procedures and guidelines on GMO food production, labeling, and safety. In 2000, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted at the Convention on Biological Diversity. The first internationally binding environmental treaty, The Cartagena Protocol regulated all transboundary movement of GMOs. The Protocol also created an advance informed agreement procedure that required all GMO exporting countries to provide information on the GMO, so the importing country can make an informed decision. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity itself has helped with the transfer and increased availability of biotechnology knowledge, informing both countries and the public, and identification of harmful factors. More recently, the UN has passed resolution A/RES/64/224, calling for the conservation of genetic resources and the review and mobilization of safe, effective resources such as biotechnology that will increase productivity. The UN has also distributed aid through GM crops such as maize and soy engineered with higher nutrition to the many malnourished in Africa.
III. Country Policy and Solutions
South Africa believes genetically modified crops are not harmful but beneficial to the global community. Currently, we are the first and only African country to see wide-spread use of GM plants, which make up much of our farms and produce. We are the world's seventh leading nation in the production of GM plants and Africa's biggest. We are also currently making progress in our research of utilizing GMOs for insulin and pharmaceuticals as a more effective way of delivering aid. However, South Africa does acknowledge the concern over safety and reliability of GMOs. Therefore, we have had an active role in ensuring consumer and environmental safety of GMOs. We are party to the Convention on Biological Diversity and have signed and ratified the Cartagena Protocol addressing biotechnology. Furthermore, we have passed much legislation focused on biosafety, such as the Genetically Modified Organisms Act to help in implementing the Protocol, the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act aimed at protecting habitats and preventing GMOs from upsetting ecosystems, and the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act pertaining to food safety. South Africa has a fully functioning biosafety system for safe import, export, and market of GM foods. Our labeling system requires GMOs to be labeled only if they differ substantially from non-GMOs regarding composition, nutrition, and preparation. South Africa believes with the right precautions, GMOs can benefit the international community.
South Africa proposes three solutions to help bypass the dilemma reached by countries refusing GM foods and the WFP, and promote the introduction of cisgenic GM crops. Our first solution focuses on countries that reject WFP aid containing GM foods. Many of these nations fear the unknown adverse health effects of GMOs, but also the contamination of local food crops through cross pollination and distribution of GM plants and seeds. Such contaminations could hinder future exports to the European Union and similar countries with GMO bans, hurting countries that depend on this trade. Due to this, many nations have strict regulations on GMOs. Therefore, South Africa proposes a milling plan which would only allow GM grains to be eaten as there are no seeds. Milling also provides an additional benefit as it allows for fortification. Food aid donors are to be responsible for the milling or milling costs of GM crops. The milling will take place in receiving nations that have milling capacity such as Zimbabwe after WFP distribution However, for countries that do not have the capacity, South Africa is willing to mill the GM crops for them. The grains will be milled by similar contributing countries and the WFP.
Our second solution focuses on assessing the safety of GMOs. Through the international community and agricultural NGOs, the Global Test on Genetically Modified Organisms, or GTGMO, will be formed to evaluate the safety of GM crops and pharmaceuticals. Samples of commonly consumed or used GM crops and pharmaceuticals from across the globe will be sent here where specialized scientist in the field from contributing countries will evaluate and run long and short term tests to determine the effects. If any hazards are to surface, the GTGMO will report it to the UN and international community.
South Africa's third solution promotes the spread of cisgenic GM crops to better benefit the global community and ease the controversy of GMOs. Unlike in transgenesis where the gene(s) introduced is from a distant, incompatible species, cisgenesis is the genetic modification of a plant with a gene from a crossable species. Cisgenic plants are introduced to the isolated gene(s) from a crossable plant through genetic engineering. As the same result could be achieved through traditional breeding, these GM plants carry no more risks than traditionally-bred plants, such as effects on environment, surrounding organisms, and toxicity. There also won't be concern of cross pollination and contamination of crops since this spread could have occurred naturally as well. As a result, there is ground for belief that they are more acceptable to consumers than transgenic GMOs. This solution calls for the cultivation of cisgenic plants. A series of projects, the number and location at the country's discretion, will take place with cisgenic seeds and plants provided by the International Fund for Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Organization. During a 5 year period, these crops, also chosen at country's discretion, will be grown and cultivated in the country. Afterwards, nations will decide on whether to continue using cisgenic GM crops or not after experiencing its benefits and other assets. As these plants offer just as safe and faster a method to achieve crops with favorable characteristics, they will offer much aid to agricultural productivity and relief to world hunger. This may also encourage others to accept transgenic GM crops. Through these 3 solutions, South Africa hopes to secure the safety of GMOs while promoting agricultural benefits to the world.