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Food, climate and emissions - a complex tangle

- Thursday, October 01, 2009

In an interesting coincidence that highlights the complexities of major policy issues confronting agriculture, the FAO and IFPRI have both recently issued major reports highlighting the challenge that the world will face in producing enough food in the future. The FAO analysis indicates a need to produce 70% more food by 2050, while the IFPRI analysis projects that the impact of a changing climate will reduce global agricultural output, with child malnutrition projected to increase by 20%. This leads to some interesting challenges when it comes to designing policies to mitigate greenhouse emissions attributed to agriculture.

The FAO reports can be accessed HERE, and the IFPRI report can be accessed HERE. In the absence of a major and almost immediate breakthrough that somehow alters ruminant nutrition process so that greenhouse gases are no longer produced, imposing a cost on agricultural emissions can only result in reduced production. This will exacerbate global food insecurity, because ruminant livestock are often run in rangeland areas unsuitable for more intensive forms of production, or in rotation with cropping and other activities.

Finding a solutionĀ that resolvesĀ the conflict between these competing policy issues will be a major challenge, and will require very large increases in agricultural R&D investment - at the very time governments around the world are reducing agricultural R&D investment.  
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