Global Warming: New report warns of food security threat

By Aoife O’Halloran 

Global warming leads to extreme weather conditions, such as extreme drought in some areas and severe flooding in others around the globe. Together, they could conceivably wreak havoc with global food security, a new study warns.

According to a report by experts from the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience, global food production will decrease dramatically in the next 25 years as a result of extreme weather conditions. Unless we do something, fast, this will lead to more people going hungry every day, since more than 800 million people – or one in every nine people on the planet – already suffer from hunger and our planet’s population continues to grow rapidly.

Image of a maize field decimated by drought. Global Warming.

A maize field decimated by drought.

We will not have enough food to feed the world’s population, the report warns. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, by 2050 demand for food will increase 60% above current levels. The production of the world’s four key crops: soybean, wheat, rice and maize is set to decrease rapidly.

A shortfall in production would surely leave people in developing countries in an untenable position and people in the rest of the world exposed to instability and inevitable conflicts. The authors state that governments, the public and private companies must adapt, understand and coordinate to break down barriers.

The report’s authors make a number of specific recommendations:

Adapt agriculture to account for climate extremes;

• Better understand the risks by improving climate, economic and crop modelling tools;

• Better coordinate risk management;

• Do not impose export restrictions.

At Monsanto a vast number of our employees are scientists who dedicate their daily working lives to discovering innovative solutions to help farmers overcome the challenges they face. This is in line with the report’s recommendation that agriculture needs to adapt to climate extremes and improvement of crop modelling tools is needed. At Monsanto we are involved, along with NGOs and other companies, in the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. This project develops drought-tolerant maize using conventional breeding and marker-assisted breeding and one day, maybe also genetic engineering.

Another one of our projects is called  AquaTEK™. Launched in 2013, AquaTEK is a water conservation system that helps Italian maize farmers increase efficiency in their use of water, energy and land by maximising production and, thereby, reducing farmers’ consumption of water and fuel.

Earlier this year the 2015 Global Risks report was released at the World Economic Forum. At number 5, in terms of world impact, was the general failure to adapt to climate change. (You can read more on the climate change discussions at Davos 2015 here).

If you want to know more about global warming’s impact on food harvests, here is some recent media coverage of the report:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33910552

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/agriculture/11802703/Theres-a-crisis-a-comin.html

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28046-extreme-weather-could-trigger-frequent-global-food-shocks/

 

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