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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid