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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Food Security - an impossible scheme?

Last week the government of India passes a landmark bill – ‘The Food Security Act’. As per its provisions, the government guarantees that each of the nation’s citizens has enough food to sustain upon. All throughout the world, every government tries to achieve food security for its citizens. Food security is also closely linked to internal security. The recent Arab Spring conflicts have been directly linked to a shortage of wheat in the area.  Food security is the ultimate decider of internal stability, good economy and a progressive environment in any country. Today as every country tries to catch up with each other in this mad race called ‘development’, they are increasingly pursuing the agenda of providing sufficient food for all citizens. But this mad race is also one of the primary reasons for a larger problem – global warming. So the question today we must all ask is – will global warming impact our food security?

The scientific projects made today linking crop output to climate change vary. Nevertheless there exists strong empirical evidence that a rise in temperature would reduce the protein content in staple foods like rice and wheat. Studies also suggest that further increase in temperatures would completely shut down fruit production by plants. Not just veggies, even the meat industry would be drastically affected because fodder on which this industry runs is an agricultural produce. A number of factors have been identified to have a decisive role in deciding the quality and quantity of crop output.

Global warming would result in unpredictable changes in local weather patterns. Food production by plants depends on a variety of factors, most important of which is the right weather. All plants are seasonal in their activities. They shed their leaves, produce flowers, and produce fruit – all during different climatic conditions. Global warming would cause sudden unpredictable changes such as long spells of dry weather followed by sudden heavy downpour. Such incriminating weather patterns would wreak havoc amongst the plants, who would be confused and may prematurely shed leaves, produce fruit etc.
Climate change would result in changes in wind / ocean currents and precipitation patterns. This would result in changes in the water availability and soil salinity, both of which would damage the crops. Crops would also be damaged due to an increase in the occurrences of flash floods, cyclones (hurricanes) and landslides.
Human suffering as a result of decreasing food security caused by climate change has already started. The sudden rise in global food prices in 2008, only shows that our food crops are increasingly at risk of uncertain weather patterns.  Such spikes in food prices will only increase in the years to come.
As governments throughout the world rush in to counter short term inflation in food prices, they are all ignorant about the simple concept linking climate change and food output. India’s ambitious Food Security Act will simply be an impossible plan if the government does not initiate steps aimed at countering global warming.

Every government knows that is at stake, but simply chooses to ignore the fact and carry on with their business as usual attitude. In Europe however there is an increasing awareness amongst the governments to take steps aimed at mitigating climate change. When will our government awaken? Or is this ambitious food security plans a simple mirage?

We the people are the losers. We cannot sit silently and watch. It’s time we question them and their policies. Wake up!