Major Threats to Global Food Security

Major Threats to Global Food Security

The world population is projected to grow to more than nine billion by 2050. This means that agriculture needs to increase production to meet the growing demand. In the context of climate change, this task can become a serious challenge. Climate change negatively affects agriculture and leads to crop loss due to disease, pests, drought, soil erosion, and other problems. In addition, food security will be challenging for some regions in the face of extreme environmental shocks.

South Asia, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East are in the most challenging environmental situation. As a result, a total of 5 billion people could be food insecure in 30 years. Food insecurity will lead to mass displacement of people, an increase in the influx of refugees to developed countries, and competition for resources.

Emerging diseases

The fight against disease-causing organisms or pathogens is a characteristic feature of agriculture. There are also current concerns, such as the spread of wheat rust fungus. The disease spreads from Africa to the Middle East and affects current wheat varieties that are not resistant to this pathogen.

New species of fungus are also destroying banana plantations, the production of which is an essential part of the economy of many countries. Scientists are working on a solution to this problem. Perhaps these pathogens can be defeated by supplying crops with R-proteins that activate defenses from various pathogens.

Growing population 

Ensuring food security for a growing population means that agriculture will need to increase production by 30-50%. It is the main task for the agricultural sector for the next three decades. In addition, climate change requires agriculture to apply sustainable practices that will help reduce the negative impact on the environment.

Climate change

Climate change, which is evidence of the disruption of the natural balance, poses the greatest threat to food security. Today, it is impossible not to notice the changes, as weather conditions become unstable and extreme weather conditions become more frequent. It leads to rising sea levels and changing landscapes. Plants do not have time to adapt, and therefore the yield of crops decreases.

Flattening yields

For several decades, agriculture has seen an increase in yields. However, production hit the ceiling due to the limitations of photosynthesis itself. Japan experienced an increase in rice yields from the 1880s to 1996. Then the growth stopped, and it became impossible to harvest from the previously used plots. Soon, China may face a similar problem.

 

Salty soils

Substances in water, including sodium and calcium salts, remain in the soil after watering. Salts accumulate in the ground and affect crop yields. Plants that are in extreme conditions are in symbiotic relationships with fungi. In some cases, treating plants with fungi helps to make them more resistant to extreme conditions. For example, rice treated with mushrooms from plants taken from coastal areas with saline soil becomes salt tolerant. Mushrooms from plants growing in the Yellowstone National Park’s geothermic soil make plants resistant to temperatures up to 50 ℃.

Fertilizer dependence

Fertilizers provide plants with the nutrients needed to increase yields. However, the manufacturing process damages the environment due to high temperatures. In addition, chemical fertilizers harm the microorganisms that inhabit the soil. The process leads to massive greenhouse gas emissions and increased global warming.

Urbanization

Cities occupy only 3% of the Earth, but more than half of the world’s population lives in them. Living in a small area of millions of people leads to a large concentration of poverty and malnutrition due to low income. People with low incomes do not have much choice and buy processed foods, and any price increase negatively affects their lives.

Final thoughts

The growing population of the planet requires agriculture to increase production. It is a real challenge for the agricultural sector, as climate change entails unstable weather conditions. Agricultural production and food security are affected by many factors, but shifting to more sustainable production and developing genetic engineering solutions can help combat potential problems.

Major Threats to Global Food Security
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Major Threats to Global Food Security
BDC September 2022 issue - 296

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