Monday, August 13, 2012

Broken global food system needs climate for change

Jim Clarken in the Irish Times: We need to address climate change to fix the damage to the world’s food supply. A drought in the US is not just an American problem. It’s our problem too. World food prices surged in July as an extended drought across the corn-growing heartland of the US midwest destroyed much of this year’s crop.

Global futures corn prices have increased by 45 per cent, soya beans by 30 per cent and wheat by 50 per cent since June, according to the World Bank, as the US, which is the world’s largest food exporter, struggles to harvest enough food for itself.

Thankfully, in Ireland just 7 per cent of household incomes goes on the weekly shop. But in many poorer countries, where up to 70 per cent of household incomes is spent on food, it will mean hunger, soaring food prices and riots, similar to those that spread across 60 countries in 2008 and, arguably, sparked the Arab spring a year and a half ago.

...Is this really where we should be, one year on from the worst food crisis so far this century, when a famine was declared in Somalia? Hardly, given that there is currently enough food in the world to feed everyone. But then the global food system, as it is, is broken.

It is a system that has led to more than 50 per cent of the population in more than half of industrialised countries becoming overweight. It is one in which the amount of food thrown away in rich countries each year is almost the same as that produced in sub-Saharan Africa.

So, what can we do? The US can start by dismantling subsidies for biofuels. ...Secondly, governments can directly improve food security by investing more in their agricultural industries and providing access to financing for farmers....

Painting of crop circles, Cropoilbrush, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

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