CHICAGO, May 21 (Xinhua) -- The most effective path toward the United Nations (UN) zero-hunger goal should rely on greater attention to the nutritional quality of diets, development of policies that increase equity and access to food, and an increased reliance on insights from the field of ecology, a research posted on the website of the University of Michigan (UM) on Tuesday said.
UM researchers reviewed recent scholarly papers from three disciplinary areas, namely ecology and agricultural sciences, nutrition and public health, and political economy and policy science, which discussed the UN goal of ending hunger and malnutrition worldwide by 2030.
They found many scholars choose to focus narrowly on increasing crop yields to solve world hunger while ignoring other key elements of the food system, including the types of crops that are grown, the environmental impacts of how the food is grown, how the food is processed and distributed, and who can access the food.
Farms are complex ecosystems: ecological principles determine how they function, as well as their environmental impacts.
Applying ecological science to the world's food systems has the potential to improve the environmental sustainability of food production in several ways, promoting biodiversity while reducing reliance on pesticides and fertilizers, according to Jennifer Blesh of the UM School for Environment and Sustainability.
"Increasing biodiversity on farms can build soil fertility while reducing nutrient pollution into waterways and helping to lower agriculture's contribution to climate change," Blesh said.
"The goal is to develop cropping systems that support healthy ecosystems while providing a diverse mix of crops for human consumption," Blesh added.
"Zero hunger" is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2015. The stated goal is to "end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture" worldwide.
Globally, 815 million people are undernourished, and as many as 2 billion suffer from nutrient deficiencies, according to the UN. At the same time, world agriculture produces enough edible calories to feed 9 billion people.
The research has been published in the journal World Development.