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.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora