The United Nations committee on world food security has issued an alarming new report on the impact of global warming: we may have to stop eating potatoes and get used to bananas instead.
Based on research by the CGIAR agricultural partnership, the committee published a policy briefing this October explaining that given the diverse impacts of climate change — of which Superstorm Sandy is arguably one such freak example — we may be forced to change what we eat.
The group analyzed the effects of climate change on 22 of the world’s key agricultural commodities as well as three important natural resources in the developing world.
While there are still many unknowns, the experts are unequivocal on one thing: “crops may not be able to grow where had been grown for many generations,” the report says
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Given that the global population is projected to increase to as much as ten billion by 2050, farmers will also have to increase yield to meet the food demands of the world.
However what they will be growing may not be what the world has so far been used to eating. Potatoes, the humble tubers that feature heavily in local cuisines everywhere from America to north India, could be a casualty.
The majority of the world’s potatoes are grown in India and China, though its cultivation is better suited to cooler climates. With the climate heating up, those areas may soon be forced to grow alternative crops, such as bananas (a fruit which for some inspires fear).
More worrisome, the experts also believe that three of the world’s main food staples — wheat, maize and rice — will also become harder to grow in some areas due to climate change. Cassava, a hardy root vegetable native to Central and South America, could be a good substitute.
Speaking with the BBC, Bruce Campbell, the program director of the research group at CGIAR, argued that while these may seem like dramatic changes, people will be able to shift their farming and eating habits:
“This is an example of something that’s happening already. There’s been quite a shift from cattle keeping to goat keeping in southern Africa in face of droughts – when the farmers see the problems they are having with production, they really are willing to shift.”
Let’s hope that when the time comes, we’ll still have a place to grow potatoes.