Surging population growth and climate change are driving the planet towards episodes of worsening hunger which only an overhaul of the food system will fix, according to a panel of experts.
“In the 21st century, as we are now we’ve got a major set of converging threats,” said John Beddington, a British professor who chaired a 13-member nine-month probe.
“There’s population growth, unsustainable resource use and big pressures on humanity to transform the way that we use food,” Prof. Beddington said in a teleconference.
“But it is intimately linked to water issues and energy issues – and of course with the major issue of climate change.”
Prof. Beddington said that during 2007 and 2008, a surge in food prices drove 100 million people into poverty, and 40 million more followed them in the 2010-2011 spike.
“There is a real concern about hunger, and there are consequences at the level where food price increases cause instability,” he said.
The so-called Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was set up in February by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an umbrella organisation funded by national governments, regional organisations and research foundations.
Drawing on published studies, the panel is offering guidance on how the world can be fed as its population rises from seven billion to more than nine billion in mid-century and diets shift to higher consumption of calories, fats and meat.
During this time, greenhouse gases emitted in past decades will have an inevitable effect on the climate system, adding to the risk of drought and flood.