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Global Food Crisis Imminent, Drastic Changes Needed: Planet Under Pressure

Scientists call for immediate shift to global sustainable agriculture, decrease in waste

- Common Dreams staff

According to a new report released today at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, drastic changes must be made to agriculture and food consumption around the world to avoid a global food crisis in the near future.

(Photo: AFP) According to a year long study by The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change there are already one billion people in the world that are undernourished while millions of others eat in excess. The waste of affluent countries has aided environmental damage and mass hunger in the rest of the world.

"Global demand is growing for agricultural products and food prices are rising, yet roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Climate change threatens more frequent drought, flooding and pest outbreaks, and the world loses 12 million hectares of agricultural land each year to land degradation. Land clearing and inefficient practices make agriculture the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution on the planet," the Commission reports.

The report calls for massive shifts in agricultural practices: "If you're going to generate enough food both to address the poverty of a billion people not getting enough food, with another billion [in the global population] in 13 years' time...you can't do it using the same agricultural techniques we've used before, because that would seriously increase greenhouse gas emissions for the whole world, with climate change knock-ons," Commission chair Prof Sir John Beddington told BBC News.

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World Scientists Define United Approach to Tackling Food Insecurity (Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change):

Nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished, while millions suffer from chronic disease due to excess food consumption. [...]

To address these alarming patterns, an independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries released today a detailed set of recommendations to policy makers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change. In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes and degraded ecosystems. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.

“Food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world and these problems are poised to accelerate,” said Sir John Beddington, chair of the Commission. “Decisive policy action is required if we are to preserve the planet’s capacity to produce adequate food in the future.” The report was released at the Planet Under Pressure conference where scientists from around the world are honing solutions for global sustainability challenges targeted to the Rio Summit, which will be held on 20-22 June in Brazil. [...]

The Commission has outlined seven recommendations designed to be implemented concurrently by a constellation of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies and researchers. They call for changes in policy, finance, agriculture, development aid, diet choices and food waste as well as revitalized investment in the knowledge systems to support these changes.

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Farming Needs 'Climate-Smart' Revolution, Says Report (BBC News):

Farming is probably responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, although the figure is hard to pin down as a large proportion comes from land clearance, for which emissions are notoriously difficult to measure.

Although there are regional variations, climate change is forecast to reduce crop yields overall - dramatically so in the case of South Asia, where studies suggest the wheat yield could halve in 50 years.

"We need to develop agriculture that is 'climate smart' - generating more output without the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, either via the basic techniques of farming or from ploughing up grassland or cutting down rainforest," said Sir John. [...]

It says the economic and policy framework around food production and consumption need to change to encourage sustainability, to raise output while minimising environmental impacts.

Farmers need more investment and better information; governments need to put sustainable farming at the heart of national policies. [...]

But it also recommends changes in developed nations - for example, around food waste.

"The less we waste food, the less food we have to produce, the less greenhouse gases are emitted," noted Dr Negra.

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