The Irish Times view on world hunger: where food is scarce

Rising food production and increased demand for energy, land and water has left only a quarter of the world’s land area free of human activity

An Indian farmer posing in his dried up cotton field at Chandampet Mandal in Nalgonda, east of Hyderabad, in the southern Indian state of Telangana in 2016. Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

An Indian farmer posing in his dried up cotton field at Chandampet Mandal in Nalgonda, east of Hyderabad, in the southern Indian state of Telangana in 2016. Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

 

The emergence of layer upon layer of evidence of accelerating climate change throughout the world is unrelenting. This week, the World Wildlife Fund said human consumption was the biggest culprit for the massive global loss of biodiversity, confirmed by wildlife populations falling by an average of 60 per cent over the past 40 years.

Rising food production and increased demand for energy, land and water has left only a quarter of the world’s land area free of human activity.

Meanwhile, US research outlined this week how the world’s oceans have been soaking up far more excess heat in recent decades than scientists realised due to human-induced carbon emissions.

In the UK, the Met Office, in its first study of climate extremes, confirmed heatwaves in the UK are lasting twice as long as they did 50 years ago, ice days are disappearing and tropical nights are starting to occur as far north as Middlesbrough. Every emerging scenario it has profiled applies in the Irish context.

There is an emerging pattern of circumstances that is set to undermine food security for hundreds of millions of people in coming decades. Research led by NUI Galway shows the common bean, a staple crop for populations across Africa and Asia, will become “climate stressed” by 2050, and where it is still possible to grow the crop, its nutritive value will be greatly diminished. Dietary deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron are already major public health problems globally, particularly among women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition report has indicated for the third year in a row there has been a rise in world hunger. Climate variability and extremes are now a key force behind that trend.

As The Irish Times marks its Food Month during November, it is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of good food in enriching our lives and culture, but also to highlight its scarcity in a world where there should be no hunger.

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