The recent natural calamities, such as forest fires, storms, and hurricanes, that surfaced from coast to coast within the U.S. illustrate to us that climate change is not only an extensive long-term challenge, but a constant hurdle that has and continues to affect economies around the world. This goes without saying that our food systems have been adversely affected as well.
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According to the recent findings published by USDA on the effects of climate change and how agricultural systems are adapting to it, both local and international agricultural systems would have to factor in the element of ambiguity to future food security projections. In other words, not only would food production systems have to prepare for anticipated shortages due to droughts, crop rotation, soil health, etc., but they would also have to anticipate a loss in existing stocks or available livestock and farming land due to natural disasters. Food production systems around the world are focusing on ways to adapt agricultural practices to cope with the physical and biochemical stresses as a result of climate change. Heat resistance is a genetic characteristic that’s being explored and tested apart from disease resistance amongst GM crops.
Modern agriculture is also witnessing a tapestry of ancient cultural methods being introduced to cope with food shortage. A classic example of this is the indigenous farming method that is still practiced in Peru when it comes to cultivating and processing over a hundred different varieties of potatoes. Toxic varieties of potatoes have been somewhat bred out. However, for the odd number that remain, they are still processed to address food shortages especially during the harsh winters and extreme summers. The ancient Incans were the first few civilizations to experiment with freeze drying to eliminate the toxins from the harvested potatoes and render them suitable and safe for consumption for years.
Efforts are being made to reduce the existing stress levels on available cultivable land by exploring alternate sustainable protein sources, such as soy and insects, both of which appear to be picking up momentum. Vertical and rooftop farming appear to be influencing communities on a global scale as well, which might be the solution to future available cultivable land. For the moment, soil health appears to be a growing concern.
Scientists from around the world are now realizing that in order to address the present challenges that arise from global warming and climate change, there needs to be an elaborate vulnerability assessment. This ties in with the need to enhance risk assessments by factoring in not just the physical elements, such as time, temperature, moisture, pressure, etc., but also political-economic climates, soil health, insect population, disease migration, and consumer trends.