Climate change may threaten food security

Wednesday 23rd Feb 2011 by theWeather Club

One of the most worrying effects surrounding the issue of climate change is food security. Climate has always changed, and it always will. The difference now is that such is the interconnectedness of the world's economic systems, that large parts of the world rely on food production in other regions for large amounts of their food. While this is great for low prices – something we have all enjoyed for some years now – there is a flip side. The fear has long been that if the climate changed in the wrong way in the wrong place, it could cause serious issues in a wider scale. However at a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, agricultural experts are expressing view that this fear is no longer hypothetical.

At the symposium organised by Ewen Todd, Michigan State University professor of advertising, public relations and retailing, called "How Climate Change Affects the Safety of the World's Food Supply" several nationally known agricultural experts warned that food safety is already an issue and will worsen unless climate change is confronted. "Accelerating climate change is inevitable with implications for animal products and crops," said Todd, who also is an AAAS Fellow. "At this point, the effects of climate change on food safety are poorly understood."

However, Todd said there are already a number of examples of climate change taking its toll on the world's food supply. One is Vibrio, a pathogen typically found in warm ocean water which is now becoming more common in the north as water temperatures rise. "It's been moving further up the coast these past few years," he said. "There was an outbreak of it near Alaska in 2005 when water temperature reached 15ºC."

Todd also said that extreme weather - droughts and heavy rains - is having an impact on the world's food supply. In some areas crops are being wiped out, resulting in higher prices and other issues. "Mycotoxins are molds that can sometimes cause illness in humans, and where you have drought and starvation there can be a mycotoxin problem," he said. "That's because people will store their meagre resources of crops for longer than they should."