Friday, February 20, 2009

Environmental Food Crisis

According to a new UNEP report - unless action is taken, 25 percent of the world’s food production may be lost by 2050 due to environmental breakdown. The report is worth a read. With the world population predicted by the UN to be above 9.1 billion in 2050, if the world's food production falls by 25 percent, the demand on food resources will be far greater than it is today and the prices for basic food items will rise out of the reach of many of the world's poor.

Here is the blurb from the press release from the UNEP:

The report, titled “The Environmental Food Crisis: The Environment’s Role in Averting Future Food Crises,” provides an overview of how environmental stresses such as climate change, water stress, invasive pests and land degradation may impact food prices and world food security, and proposes a seven-point plan to reduce the risk of hunger and rising food insecurity in the 21st century.

The report’s main findings include:

"food prices may increase 30-50 percent within decades with severe impacts for the rural poor; many factors blamed for the current food crisis, including drought, biofuels, high oil prices, low grain stocks and speculation, may worsen substantially in the coming decades; and climate change emerges as a key factor undermining food security."

The report presents seven options for improving food security for the short-, mid- and long-term.

Short-term effect options include: decreasing the risk of volatile food prices through measures, such as price regulation, buffer cereal stocks and food safety nets; and removing subsidies and blending mandates for first generation biofuels.

Options with mid-term effects include: reducing the use of cereals and food fish as animal feed and increasing food energy efficiency; supporting diversified and resilient eco-agriculture systems; and increasing trade and improving market access.

Options with long-term effects include: limiting global warming, including through the promotion of climate-friendly agricultural production systems; and raising awareness of pressures from increasing population and consumption patterns on ecosystem functioning.

Link to report here.

Other major findings:

The one hundred year trend of falling food prices may be at an end, and food prices may increase by 30-50 per cent within decades with critical impacts for those living in extreme poverty spending up to 90 per cent of their income on food. These findings are supported by a recent report from the World Bank stating that if agricultural production is depressed further, food prices may rise.

Up to 25 per cent of the worlds food production may become lost due to 'environmental breakdowns' by 2050 unless action is taken. Already, cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish landings are declining.

Today, over one third of the world's cereals are being used as animal feed, rising to 50 per cent by 2050. Continuing to feed cereals to growing numbers of livestock will aggravate poverty and environmental degradation.

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