Climate change could intensify hunger risk in developing world, UN official says

7 August 2007

Climate change could lead to potential food shortages and increase the risk of hunger in developing countries, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said today.

However, industrialized countries could see an increase in their crop yields, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in a speech in Chennai, India.

“Crop yield potential is likely to increase at higher latitudes for global average temperature increases of up to 1 to 3°C depending on the crop, and then decrease beyond that,” he said.

“On the contrary, at lower latitudes, especially in the seasonally dry tropics, crop yield potential is likely to decline for even small global temperature rises, which would increase the risk of hunger,” Mr. Diouf noted in his address to the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation Conference.

Also at low latitudes, more frequent droughts and floods would decrease local production. “Rain-fed agriculture in marginal areas in semi-arid and sub-humid regions is mostly at risk.”

For example, he noted that India stands to lose 125 million tons of its rain-fed cereal production, close to 20 per cent of its total production.

He stressed that advances in science and technology will be paramount in the field of agricultural production in the next three decades.

“I cannot sufficiently underline the need to also address the needs of resource poor farmers in rain-fed areas and on marginal lands,” Dr. Diouf said. “Ensuring that new biotechnologies help achieve this goal, in full awareness of biosafety, socio-economic and ethical concerns associated with the use of some of these technologies remains a challenge for the entire scientific community.”

 

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