Food System Adaptation to Climate Change

Fresco (2009) discusses the current and potential challenges of climate change on agricultural food systems and how they can be moderated. Climate change is projected to cause fluctuations in daytime and nighttime temperatures, precipitation, sea level, and CO2 levels. There must be agricultural systems developed that can resiliently reduce the effects of this unpredictability, and the paper provides a series of considerations to accomplish this. Modern technology and infrastructure should be funded to support the food production growth necessary to satisfy the growing demand for food. The increasing demand for animal proteins—eggs, dairy, meats, and fish—could become especially difficult to supply in the coming decades and meat may be increasingly substituted with textured vegetable proteins. According to the paper, a truly sustainable food system is resource efficient and reduces GHG<!–[if supportFields]> XE “greenhouse gas (GHG)” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]> XE “greenhouse gas” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> emissions by being more energy efficient throughout the entire production process. Also, Fresco believes the best prevention to vulnerabilities and potential environmental adversity is to have food systems that produce high output with low environmental impact.—Marshall Fisher
Fresco, L., 2009. Challenges for food system adaptation today and tomorrow. Environmental Science & Policy 12, 378-385

In the 1960s, the Green Revolution introduced different varieties of crops that could maximize food production by reducing the negative impact of pests, generating shorter growing cycles, and lessening the effects of climate variability. Continuing into the 1970’s and even today, the agricultural industry’s goal has been to produce larger yields of crops that contain more calories and proteins. Through this strategy, many food deficits around the world have been reduced and, in some cases, there have been surpluses. By supplying millions of people globally with food of improved quality and safety, modern agricultural production has perhaps been one of mankind’s greatest achievements.
Through the ordinary economics of opportunity cost, agricultural products that are economically profitable to produce in a region usually become highly specialized and increasingly produced in that region. However, there are many species that can generate multiple products, such as sheep<!–[if supportFields]> XE “sheep” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> or maize<!–[if supportFields]> XE “maize” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> in Africa<!–[if supportFields]> XE “Africa” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>. This multifunctionality of products can reduce waste and carbon emissions by using all waste and by-products in secondary processes—the cradle-to-cradle approach. Furthermore, remaining biomass<!–[if supportFields]> XE “biomass” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> from plants and animals could be used to power food processing and reduce carbon footprint. Although there has been increased interest in modern biofuels<!–[if supportFields]> XE “biofuels” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]> XE “biofuel” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> and the “food versus fuel dilemma,” only about 1% of total agricultural land areas globally are currently committed to biofuel production. Fresco concludes that biofuels have not yet significantly impacted global food prices but may in the future. Multifunctional agriculture<!–[if supportFields]> XE “agriculture”<![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> may have its benefits, but specialization will always be considered an effective way to maximize production.
Globalization may also fuel specialization in agricultural production as countries become better able to trade and communicate with one another. Although agriculture<!–[if supportFields]> XE “agriculture”<![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> is a renewable resource, crop prices are similar to oil prices because they are both subject to movements and unpredictability in the market. For example, if a country that is a main producer of a crop experiences a dry summer, prices for that crop may rise. Moreover, as previously undeveloped countries such as China<!–[if supportFields]> XE “China” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>, India<!–[if supportFields]> XE “India” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>, and Brazil<!–[if supportFields]> XE “Brazil” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> become more technologically advanced and urbanized, demand for processed food will grow. Due to food production’s relative inelasticity, it will be difficult to support this kind of growth in the short run.
The paper calls for more transparency and documentation of the food production processes to set standards for reducing GHG<!–[if supportFields]> XE “greenhouse gas (GHG)” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]> XE “greenhouse gas” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> emissions, improving food safety, and increasing accessible information to customers. The state, or government, has strong influence over providing agricultural conditions that promote sustainability by use of legal, policy, and fiscal strategies. Fresco calls for increased science and government action for food systems that not only involve genetics and advanced scientific research but also sustainable food processing and distribution techniques. The supply of agriculture<!–[if supportFields]> XE “agriculture”<![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> is mostly a reaction to consumer demand, but consumer demand may have to adjust to the limitations of supply in the coming years. Integration of all aspects of agricultural production—food processing, marketing, consumption, or health and nutrition—must be pursued to maximize efficiency and production of every food system. —Marshall Fisher

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