Food is key to climate talks - activists

2011-11-29 09:43
Activists say food security should be a key issue at climate talks. (AP)

Activists say food security should be a key issue at climate talks. (AP)

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Cape Town - As climate negotiators meet in Durban for the UN-sponsored talks, activists say that the key issue is food security.

"Food would be a critical issue. One thinks the issues like energy and water can be fixed, but food will be a critical issue: That's a big concern of ours," Muna Lakhani, Cape Town branch co-ordinator for Earthlife Africa told News24.

Some have suggested that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may provide food security by allowing food crops to grow in regions that do not generally support them.

The industry has also touted increased yields from GMOs, but Lakhani rejected the idea on the grounds that he did not believe there was a food shortage, despite millions dying of starvation.

"GMOs are a sin against humanity because firstly we’re not short on food on this planet. If we took current food production and shared it equitably with every woman, man and child, then each human being could get a kilo of grain, half a kilo of fresh food, and half a kilo of all the others: Egg, cheese and such like every day."

Equitable system

Lakhani suggested that lack of access to food, particularly in developing countries, had more to do with politics than climate change or lack of water.

"The barriers to food are economics and politics," he said.

Negotiators at the COP 17 in Durban are hoping to come up with a binding agreement on carbon emissions, but hopes are low that a deal will be reached.

Poor countries want developed nations to pay for pollution, but economies like the US would like to see polluters like China and India also pay a fair share.

Greenpeace also suggested that food was a critical issue in the context of climate change, but added that it would be a direct result of the lack of water.

"It's very hard to stipulate one major threat because you’re dealing with such a diversity as climate change, but because you'd have such intense changes in the climate one of the biggest things we're going to have to deal with is lack of water and as a result, lack of food.

"So major food insecurity and scarcity of water in a country that already has a lack of water," Ferial Adams of Greenpeace told News24.


Some activists have suggested that society needs to move away from profit-based system for food production and while there is some agreement over the basis for a more equitable system, there is debate about what form it should take.

"Commercial farming itself needs to transform; I think we need to move to agroecology, which is a systems based approach to food production. So that we need to change," said Lakhani.

He warned that under a system designed to ensure food security, the needs that people have would first have to be taken into account.

"Secondly, we need to ensure that South Africa gets supplied first with adequate food prior to any export or transformation into other products and certainly, agriculture that is ecologically sustainable is viable at any scale."

Earthlife Africa rejects the idea that the poor should be obliged to grow their own food, but insists that there should be an equitable distribution and access to food.

"I think the notion that every poor person should grow their own food is iniquitous. Not everybody, A, has the land. B, not everybody wishes to grow food.

"We should leave to food growing to those with the passion for it, and people should have the access and affordability of good, nutritious food," Lakhani said.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Read more on:    greenpeace  |  earthlife africa  |  durban  |  climate change  |  cop 17

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