News / Science & Technology

Climate Change Could Alter Eating Habits

Failed maize crops in an area of Ghana which has suffered failed rains and rising temperatures. Sorghum, millet and cassava could become better options in large parts of Africa. (Neil Palmer/CIAT)
Failed maize crops in an area of Ghana which has suffered failed rains and rising temperatures. Sorghum, millet and cassava could become better options in large parts of Africa. (Neil Palmer/CIAT)
Climate change might force changes in diets around the world as certain staple foods become harder to produce, according to international agriculture researchers.

However, future shortfalls could be offset by switching to crops which can thrive in those altered climates, according to new reports by the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research.

Important crops like maize and wheat produce less grain at temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius.

“Those kinds of temperatures are being reached on a regular basis and more frequently in many countries now,” says Sonja Vermeulen, head of CGIAR climate change research.

Widespread changes

Vermeulen says growing-season temperatures are not the only factors affected by climate change. Rainfall patterns are shifting, too. Water supplies will be strained in some areas, while others will see more floods.
Freshly threshed rice near Sangrur, India. Salt water encroachment, flooding and droughts are more likely as the climate changes, which could impact crops such as rice. (Neil Palmer/CIAT)Freshly threshed rice near Sangrur, India. Salt water encroachment, flooding and droughts are more likely as the climate changes, which could impact crops such as rice. (Neil Palmer/CIAT)
x
Freshly threshed rice near Sangrur, India. Salt water encroachment, flooding and droughts are more likely as the climate changes, which could impact crops such as rice. (Neil Palmer/CIAT)
Freshly threshed rice near Sangrur, India. Salt water encroachment, flooding and droughts are more likely as the climate changes, which could impact crops such as rice. (Neil Palmer/CIAT)

Climate change is also altering habitats for pests and diseases, she says. "And for some crops, particularly crops we really value, such as potatoes, we think those are really likely to increase and change in their patterns in the future.”

Rice will not be spared, either. Higher temperatures, salt water encroachment, more flooding and more droughts are likely as the climate changes.

Maize vs. millet

Some crops in some regions will be able to adapt, “But for others, we’re really going to have to think about switching out of growing some crops entirely,” Vermeulen says.

For example, by later this century large parts of Africa will no longer be suitable for growing maize. Sorghum, millet and cassava are becoming better options.

“And when you start thinking through all that, it means changes in people’s diets," she says. "And these are fairly fundamental cultural changes.”

Vermeulen and her colleagues have just released two reports outlining the predicted impacts of climate change on food production, and also on food safety. She says warmer temperatures will mean foods will spoil faster.

“This is something we haven’t thought a lot about, these kinds of infections that can harm humans that really might be on the increase,” she says.

Global vs. local

But not all the news from climate change is bad. Many farmers will adapt, and new farmland will open up in what used to be colder latitudes. So overall, the global food supply may not suffer.

But, Vermeulen says, what will matter most to people is what happens when local crops begin to fail.

“Are we going to deal with that by greater global interconnectivity so that people can shift out of agriculture but buy their food from somewhere else," she asks, "or do we deal with it by major changes in how people are growing food, raising animals and eating?”

Over the next 100 years, she says, the world will need to do a bit of both: expand global trade, and adapt local farms to the realities of climate change.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Manda from: Japan
November 09, 2012 7:07 PM
I think that we must be changed and adopt the situation today. Human beings have been adopted the environment and improved ourselves. That is the only way we live on the earth forever.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid