A report has cautioned that major changes are needed in agriculture and food consumption across the world in order to adequately feed future generations.
The report suggests that farming must intensify sustainably, waste should be cut and greenhouse gas emissions from farms should be reduced.
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change spent over a year assessing evidence from scientists and policymakers.
“We need to develop agriculture that is ‘climate smart’ – generating more output without the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions,” the BBC quoted Prof Sir John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, as saying.
“If you’re going to generate enough food both to address the poverty of a billion people not getting enough food, with another billion [in the global population] in 13 years’ time, you’ve got to massively increase agriculture.
“You can’t do it using the same agricultural techniques we’ve used before, because that would seriously increase greenhouse gas emissions for the whole world, with climate change knock-ons.”
Farming is probably responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, although the figure is hard to pin down as a large proportion comes from land clearance, for which emissions are notoriously difficult to measure.
Although there are regional variations, climate change is forecast to reduce crop yields overall – dramatically so in the case of South Asia, where studies suggest the wheat yield could halve in 50 years.
“We need to develop agriculture that is ‘climate smart’ – generating more output without the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, either via the basic techniques of farming or from ploughing up grassland or cutting down rainforest,” said Sir John.
The techniques needed in different regions differ according to what is appropriate, said Dr Christine Negra, who co-ordinated the commission’s work.
“In places where using organic methods, for example, is appropriate or economically advantageous and produces good socio-economic and ecological outcomes, that’s a great approach,” she said.
“In places where, using GMOs, you can address food security challenges and socio-economic issues, those are the right approaches to use where they’ve been proven safe,” she added.
It says the economic and policy framework around food production and consumption need to change to encourage sustainability, to raise output while minimising environmental impacts. (ANI)