Opinions and Speeches

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Georgia fights global hunger

As appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Global hunger is not just an issue of compassion, but also an issue of national security to the United States. As we seek to stop the spread of terrorism, part of our strategy must include addressing hunger. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and al-Shabaab take advantage of hunger because hungry populations are vulnerable to whoever will provide them with what they need to survive. It is happening right now as al-Qaida-affiliated groups continue to move into northern Africa.

Georgia is uniquely positioned to make significant strides toward ending global hunger through academia, business, government and non-governmental organizations such as Atlanta-based CARE.

Our nation also has a huge asset in the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every day, the CDC saves lives and makes the world a safer, healthier place. It also deals with illnesses and diseases that result from hunger and famine. The United States must focus on helping impoverished areas. One unhealthy country is a threat to all healthy countries. Simply put, germs spread.

Georgia companies are also investing in the fight to end global hunger. Duluth-based AGCO, for example, has a working farm in Zimbabwe where sustainable farming is taught. Africa is one of the main recipients of international food aid, but it’s also a continent that could become self-sustaining with the use of better farming techniques.

MANA Nutrition, a nonprofit in Fitzgerald, produces millions of packets of peanut butter paste fortified with vitamins and powdered milk. This life-saving nutrition is bringing malnourished children back to health in areas hit hard by famine.

We cannot discuss this issue without addressing the U.S. government’s fiscal problem. We must find ways to do more with less, manage our resources better and meet challenges by maximizing how we spend the money we have, not by raising taxes. I was proud to co-sponsor an amendment to the farm bill that would reform our food aid programs by providing more flexibility in aid delivery. By allowing for more local and regional procurement of aid in countries where it is needed, the United States will be able to deliver food more efficiently.

I encourage Georgians to continue to lead in this area and to collaborate through great non-profits and volunteer organizations such as CARE, through effective institutions such as the CDC, or through each other to see that we meet 21st century needs. If we do, we’ll need far fewer resources dedicated to stabilizing areas of conflict and terrorism, and we’ll have far more opportunities in the developing countries of the world.

Partnerships that address the challenges of world hunger lessen the opportunities for terrorists and raise the power of democracy. If we look the other way, we open the door for those who would take advantage of very vulnerable populations. Eradicating hunger is not just a humanitarian issue; it’s an investment in our future and our security.

Johnny Isakson represents Georgia in the U.S. Senate.