FOOD BUSINESSES need to look closely at three climate reports which show we need a new model now to feed the world by 2050, says Duncan Williamson.
Three recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly spell out the dangers of climate change. The reports warn that all aspects of food security will be affected by climate change. Any food business that wants to thrive in a changing world should be looking at these warnings and looking at a new model: one that is less reliant on resource-intensive foods, oil, pesticides, fertilisers and grain. I’d also argue that the focus on producing more of everything is misplaced.
The 60% increase in food production by 2050 that many are pinning their hopes on will not solve global hunger, it won’t guarantee food is affordable and it will not be available to the poorest. Especially as the global middle classes and rich will be demanding more resource-intensive foods, including meat.
It is not desirable to increase food production by 60% by 2050. Rather, we need to empower female farmers, shift to more sustainable diets and make more headway on cutting the vast quantities of food we waste. This is how we will balance demand with supply, and ensure this is maintained for a long-term climate safe food system.
The IPCC reports provide a timely wake- up call. We need to start thinking in a new way, looking at solutions in every part of the food system from agricultural practices to consumption patterns. We need to develop a food system that is resilient and resource efficient, which supplies good food to all, not just calories. It must leave space for forests, as well as soil, land and aquatic biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems.
The way forward is to work towards sustainable food security, bringing together the social, economic and environmental aspects found in the five pillars: availability, access, utilisation, stability and sustainability.
The good news is we already produce enough food to feed 9 billion people, and we are making huge strides forward in our understanding of agricultural practices, technology and diets. We just need the will to bring them together and move towards sustainable food security. This will be a food system that mitigates some of the effects of climate changes and adapts to others.
As Rachel Kyte, the World Bank vice-president for climate change, says, we need to frame climate change as a food issue. If we strive for a 60% increase in production but focus on resource-intensive foods, we will only fuel further climate change. The food we eat has to change – and that means the system does too.
What we are able to feed our children and grandchildren will depend on what we do about climate change, and whether we are rich or poor. All the stakeholders in the food system are involved in this choice and, with the climate already changing, we have to start making changes now.