#7 More land to feed people and better harvests thanks to nuclear power

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Published on 03/01/2022

(by leaving space for food farming)

How does nuclear contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal #2: Fight hunger?

822 million people suffer from malnutrition worldwide, and an estimated 9 million die from hunger and hunger-related diseases each year. Every year, up to 40% of crops and millions of head of cattle are lost to pests and diseases.

The sterile insect technique (SIT) uses ionizing radiation to sterilize farmed male insects, which then compete with wild males to mate with females, reducing the insect population. This technique has been used successfully against two major vegetable pests, as well as livestock killer insects in sub-Saharan Africa.

The technique of crop mutation speeds up the process of breeding new varieties, using radiation to mimic the natural process of spontaneous mutation, the driving force of evolution. In Peru, this technique has made it possible to improve barley and amaranth varieties by adapting them to high altitude climatic conditions, increasing the yields and incomes of Andean farmers.

Food can be stored for longer with irradiation. This conservation technique is used to kill pathogens such as E. coli, listeria and salmonella, as well as bacteria that quickly spoil food.

Nuclear technologies in food and agriculture improve crop yields, help reduce losses from pests and insects, and keep food fresher for longer, increasing the available global food supply.

By providing abundant and reliable energy, recourse to nuclear power can also make it possible to limit the use of biomass and biogas to their fatal parts (by-products of existing useful crops and livestock), thus reserving agricultural land for food production.

The full report of the World Nuclear Association is available here.