Every day 160,000 children die of hunger. And hunger's toll will only get worse as the global population climbs to seven billion at the end of this year; and reaches nine to 10 billion by 2050. Nearly all of that population growth will take place in the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Farmers must boost production by 70 percent in the next decade to meet growing need. Yet there is now enough food to feed everyone, experts say. The tragedy - or perhaps the crime - is that human beings lack the political will to divide all that we produce so as to prevent those deaths. In addition, the global chain of 15 agricultural research stations, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research known as CGIAR, which gave us the Green Revolution in the 1960s, has just been "reformed" at the insistence of donors. They have added a new bureaucratic layer that will mandate what research takes place. Some say this could undermine the spontaneous, ground-up, trial-and-error system that has proved its worth since the 1950s. In February, the highest food prices on record increased the number of the hungry to one billion people. Food prices spiked for several well-known reasons: - China, India and other prospering countries now eat more meat - producing one pound of meat requires 10 pounds of grain. - Massive floods and drought in Pakistan, China, the Horn of Africa, Australia, Russia and South America, possibly linked to climate change, have destroyed crops creating a worldwide shortage of food. - US ethanol production now consumes 40 percent of US corn harvests. - Oil selling at over $100 per barrel adds to the cost of transport, fertilizer and operation of farm machinery. - And there are more people every day on this planet. Yet there is plenty of food to feed every one of the children dying of hunger each day, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The reason these children die is their families have no land to grow food, no money to buy it, or food costs more than they earn. "Hunger is an economic problem - it is caused in part by market failure and poor distribution," Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) told me recently. Hunger is also a political problem - each country is bound up in tribal, electoral, business and other ties to influential groups refusing to give up their power. There is the famous tale of the Swiss cow - it receives more in subsidies each year than the incomes of many Third World citizens. Elsewhere, fertile land is used to grow narcotics such as Qat and poppy. Lately we see on the evening news awful photos of emaciated Somali refugees fleeing famine. Some 10 million are at risk in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, where the rains have failed for several seasons, livestock has perished and there is simply no reserve to distribute. Relief groups cannot enter Somalia to assist the dying because Islamist rebels have killed aid workers. The US govt has provided $380 million worth of a corn and soy blend, legumes and vegetable oil to some 4 million people in the Horn of Africa famine. But in a Congressional boondoggle, US aid is required by law to be bought in the US and shipped on slow, costly US ships. Aid experts have asked that USAID simply be given the cash to buy grain from African farmers - stimulating production and cutting transport costs. Congress, pushed by farm belt lobbies, refuses to allow such "local purchase." So, half our aid goes to US farmers and shippers instead of the needy. Another reason this famine is a man-made tragedy is that countries such as Ethiopia have food surplus in some regions and famine in others. Yet there is no system to allow merchants to borrow from banks, buy surplus grain, store it safely, and then transport it to areas of need where the destitute could be put to work improving irrigation, roads and other infrastructure in return for food or cash to buy food. Donald Steinberg, deputy administrator of USAID, wrote July 15 in the Huffington Post that relief alone won't stop recurring famines. The Obama Administration has launched a "Feed the Future" initiative "to expand agricultural output, build strong markets, increase transport infrastructure, bring new technology and innovation, and address the entire value chain in these affected countries, from seed to market," Steinberg said. "We are pressing govts in the region to enhance their support for agriculture..." he added.But how hard can US officials push? We need another Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who invented the miracle high yield wheat in the 1960s that has saved hundreds of millions of lives. Borlaug was still fighting to improve agriculture when he died at age 95. He once told me the Green Revolution might never have happened if he hadn't barged into an Indian agriculture minister's office and threatened to denounce him to the Indian press corps unless he built promised fertilizer factories needed to double wheat yields. You have to hold their feet to the fire, he told me with a twinkle in his eye. Where are the Borlaugs of today, willing to openly challenge Third World despots - including those masquerading as democratically elected leaders though they fix the elections, jail the opposition and muzzle the press? It seems these days we are more focused on diplomacy than development. And now, just as agricultural research needs to be supported and given more muscle, the world's most important agricultural research system - Borlaug worked for it for decades - has been "reformed" by donors and will have a new top level ordering each research center from Nigeria to Mexico to follow its directives. The CGIAR has long been a bottom-up sort of place. Its 14 research stations improve wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, cassava and other crops. Borlaug created the short-stemmed miracle wheat at the CGIAR center in Mexico in the 1960s. The latest in its historic series of discoveries took place at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines which last year found a gene that enables rice to survive after 17 days completely submerged by flooding. The new rice is now available commercially I was told by Jonathan Wadsworth, director of the CGIAR donor fund. USAID is the largest donor to the $700 million CGIAR annual budget. But two other donors - the World Bank and Britain - pushed for the new creation this year of a new bureaucratic layer - the consortium - which will now decide on research priorities and require that all research centers follow those priorities. Sources within CGIAR told me confidentially that one of the first things the consortium decreed was that no one shall speak to the press any more. They also said that this new system will squelch real research. Most discoveries are done through trial and error, over and over, until something works. This may not fit into a system trying to set priorities at the center and measure outputs based on the goals. Wadsworth dismisses these concerns, saying, "there is liberty for the scientific method to prevail." At a time of growing hunger, famine, food prices, riots, unrest, and population, this is not a time to fool with one of the planets real crown jewels - the CGIAR system of agricultural scientists around the world. McClatchy