Food production faces climate crisis, says Greenpeace

2013-10-16 08:32
(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Climate change will impact on food security and poor people will bear the brunt of rising food prices, an environmental organisation has said.

"Some South Africans already do not have enough food to eat. Climate change will make this food insecurity worse, and our current methods of production should be better prepared to deal with the challenges of climate change," Greenpeace Africa Agriculture campaigner Glen Tyler told News24.

The 16 October marks World Food Day and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that the day is designed to find solutions to end world hunger.

The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is the primary directive of the eight Millennium Development Goals which aim to ensure a sustainable and more equitable society by 2015.

According to the FAO, there is significant progress toward ending extreme hunger. The organisation reported that its figures show that 842 million people live in extreme hunger, down from 868 million reported a year ago.

Farming methods

This is significant because the global population has also been expanding over the same period, indicating that real progress has been made in terms of food distribution.

Tyler suggested that the industrial farming methods were putting food production at risk.

"Ecological farming is bio-diverse and ensures there are a variety of crops able to handle the different stresses that climate change will bring to bear. Currently, South Africa relies predominantly on industrial agriculture for food production, whose monocultures are less resilient."

One strategy to cope with a possible future food production crisis is to create seed banks as an insurance policy.

"Conservation techniques, such as the creation of seed banks and seed exchanges among farmers, gardeners, and even nations, play an important role in preserving ancient, heirloom varieties of important food crops," Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank told News24.

According to Nierenberg, seed banks are ideal strategies to preserve the more than 100 000 threatened species on plants worldwide.

Greenpeace rejected suggestions that the move toward genetically modified food organisms (GMOs) was a solution for a looming crisis of food production.

GM backlash

"GM food is not the solution. Genetic modification puts control over food in the hands of foreign corporations and increases our reliance on agro-chemicals," said Tyler.

Genetically modified crops have faced a backlash from some farmers who say that it negatively impacts on their livelihoods.

A farmer in the US state of Washington said that he was puzzled as to how GM alfalfa grew in his field a year before the federal government approved the seeds.

Pesticide-resistant alfalfa was developed by Monsanto and the company has faced pressure to abandon the technology in several countries.

Farmers in India have protested to force Monsanto to leave the country after the company announced that it would no longer pursue GM production in Europe after fierce opposition.

Tyler said that environmental and social issues were inextricably linked.

"The problems of hunger, poverty and environmental degradation are inseparable. Without healthy ecosystems we will not be able to produce the food we need to feed ourselves."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    greenpeace africa  |  environment  |  climate change
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