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Ambitious new program to tackle the problems of food supply, food waste and sustainability

The New York Times’ Green blog argues why we need to think more holistically about the world’s food security in light of a changing and uncertain climate. The article explains that price jumps are attributed to the tight balance between supply and demand, a warming climate, and food waste. Over a billion people over-consume food, which increases the risk of chronic diseases, and about one-third of all food harvested is lost or wasted.

Despite grim forecasts around the state of the world’s food supply, there is always progress being made. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has released a report calling for a new program to overcome problems of, and cite opportunities for, food supply, food waste and sustainability. Their report includes several recommendations:

  • Develop specific programmes and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate changes and food insecurity
  • Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade
  • Develop specific programmes and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate changes and food insecurity
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable intensification and reducing deforestation
  • Reduce the loss and waste in food systems, targeting infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits

The report says “food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world and these problems are poised to accelerate.”

One of the recommendations pertains to climate change and food insecurity, however the importance of climate adaptation is not immediately visible. As authors like David Lobell et al. suggest, adaptation is a key factor that will shape the future severity of climate change impacts on food production [PDF]. Further, they explain “although relatively inexpensive changes, such as shifting planting dates or switching to an existing crop variety, may moderate negative impacts, the biggest benefits will likely result from more costly measures including the development of new crop varieties and expansion of irrigation”.

Adaptation is indispensable in the mix of strategies needed to alleviate food insecurity problems. The video below from Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) illustrates the topic of food insecurity. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change’s report can also be found online.

The forthcoming ACT Crops & Food Supply report (due for publication September 2012), authored by Erik Karlsen, will include a roadmap of key climate change issues for agriculture in Canada, as well as identified opportunities for government responses that might enable and support resilience building.

Article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah

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