An interview with the nutrition expert Hans Konrad Biesalski on “hidden hunger”.
The International Green Week and the accompanying Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) are concerned with world food security. An increasing problem: “hidden hunger”. Hans Konrad Biesalski, Professor of Food Science at the University of Hohenheim, is author of a book on the subject.
What is hidden hunger?
Hidden hunger is mainly a form of malnutrition caused by poverty and an unbalanced diet. One third of the world’s population nourishes itself predominantly from starchy foods such as rice, corn or wheat, because these are cheap and make you feel full. But feeling full isn’t enough. Malnourished people lack, among other things, vitamins, iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, trace elements and other essential micronutrients.
Who suffers from hidden hunger?
The World Health Organisation WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO and other observers assume that approximately one billion people are undernourished and another two billion suffer from iron or zinc deficiency. About 95 per cent of these people live in developing and emerging countries. Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children are those worst affected. According to WHO, some seven million children under the age of five die annually from the direct or indirect consequences of malnutrition.
There are approaches to solutions such as improving the living conditions of small farmers and the strengthening of “old varieties”, but are they actually being implemented?
Not sufficiently. We mustn’t cease pointing again and again to this problem. The Post-2015 Agenda of the United Nations, which is strongly supported by Germany, and the efforts of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) that go under the name of “World without Hunger”, are important steps in this direction. The point is to join forces and together to ensure that the causes of poverty, and so the foundation of malnutrition, are constantly and successfully combated. It also means that nutritional, agricultural and economic science must work together to come to grips with this very complex challenge. It is exactly this approach that has been adopted by the Food Security Centre at the University of Hohenheim, funded by the BMZ and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
International Green Week in Berlin, 16 to 25 January 2015