Experts blame environment, not climate change, for food shortages

More than 40% of world’s fresh fruit and vegetables and about a quarter of its meat – could be affected by increased disease

The world’s farmers are failing to produce enough food, and a number of economists and policymakers are blaming extreme weather or changing soil fertility and climate change. But a growing number of experts are pointing the finger at some more familiar culprits – the environment and people.

The journal Nature on Wednesday published a study looking at a surprisingly large number of environmental changes that might have affected agriculture across the globe over the past two centuries and concluded that climate change will likely be offset by soil “cover”, or the way that soils protect the roots of crops.

The researchers found that 50% of crops cultivated globally are likely to be affected by land management changes.

‘We’ve let food get to the point where we can’t produce enough for everyone,’ says Madagascar’s president Read more

Of these coverages, they found that drought and soil erosion were the most significant, while flooding and soil erosion were the least common. These two factors will only intensify in the future, the researchers say.

“We need to look at all of these aspects to reflect not just on crop production, but also on the burden of poverty,” said Ruth Cochrane, a paleobiologist at Columbia University who led the study. “Potentially there are times when we can overcome them.”

In Madagascar, the agriculture minister, Sisinomio Bathiyana, says its efforts are focused on spending more to preserve soil.

“In the past 40 years, we have learned a lot about how to move farmers to include soils in their activities,” Bathiyana said. “In the past, we focused on daily cultivation of crops, now we are learning how to involve the entire family in preserving the soil.”

Madagascar’s challenges have been well publicized: the island of about 17 million people produces 2 million tonnes of food a year, but people are eating 3.5 times that amount, for a total of 15.5 million tonnes.

The country also suffers from political instability. Political parties earlier this year failed to reach a deal on the formation of a new government, after the previous administration quit and the constitution was suspended at the end of May.

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