Climate change increases risk of 'food shocks'

By FoodProcessing Staff
Wednesday, 17 February, 2016

Extreme weather events that affect the food system are increasingly likely to occur, resulting in ‘food shocks’ that wreak havoc on food markets, commodity exports and families around the world.

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC, a panel of British and American researchers has discussed new research, such as how the geography of food production interacts with meteorology to compound the threats to food production in certain areas, and the relationship between the global food system and current El Niño-driven weather patterns.

The connectedness to global markets protects countries from local events but makes them more vulnerable to shocks in distant regions, said Prof Tim Benton, Champion of the UK’s Global Food Security Programme. The threat of extreme events occurring in different breadbaskets simultaneously is especially concerning — if, for example, severe drought in the US Midwest withers the soy and maize harvest at the same time that a record-breaking heatwave in Europe bakes the continent’s wheat crop.

“Crop yields and climate data show us that the global food system is at increased risk as extreme weather events are as much as three times more likely to happen as a result of climate change by mid-century,” said Prof Benton.

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