Growing Urgent

It’s interesting that, just as the U.S. is pondering whether to honour the Paris Climate Change agreement, Clean Technica is drawing attention to research with alarming implications for the future of food security by 2050:

“Global production of the 4 most important staple crops in the world — maize/corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans — will be reduced by around 23% by the 2050s as a result of worsening anthropogenic climate change, according to new research published in the journal Economics of Disasters and Climate Change.

Notably, even by the 2030s — not that long from now — production of the staple crops mentioned above are expected to fall by ~9%, owing to rising temperatures (both rising minimums and maximums), increasingly extreme weather, and drought.

It should be noted that the findings don’t take into account rising soil depletion/erosion problems, the possibility of synthetic fertilizer shortages, or the possibility of large-scale wars or social breakdown. In other words, things could get notably worse than the figures above, which are already quite extreme.” 

Three of the four staple crops being affected (wheat, soybeans and corn/maize) are among Canada’s top agricultural exports. Statistics Canada reports that in 2011, Canada produced:

  • 6% of the world’s wheat and ranked third in global production
  • 6% of the world’s soybeans; ranked 7th in world production
  • 2% of maize; ranked 11th in world production

In that context it’s interesting that the Canadian government is pursuing a strategy of trying to develop the “agrifood” sector as an economic ‘super-cluster’. Close to a billion dollars will be budgeted to spur development in 5 economic ‘clusters’.

Closer to home, Ontario has approved the Greenbelt Plan 2017 (effective July 1, 2017) with specific aims for agricultural areas:

  • Protection of prime agricultural areas by preventing further fragmentation and loss of the agricultural land base caused by lot creation and the redesignation of prime agricultural areas;
  • Provision of the appropriate flexibility to allow for agricultural, agriculture-related and on-farm diversified uses, normal farm practices and an evolving agricultural and rural economy;
  • Increasing certainty for the agricultural sector to foster long-term investment in the agri-food network and improvement to and management of the agricultural land base; and
  • Enhancing the strengths of the Agricultural System, including through consideration for the impacts of development on agriculture and planning for local food and near-urban agriculture

When we hear about growth plans, we think about population growth and urban sprawl.  With some food staples likely to become increasingly scarcer and possibly less affordable, everyone will be affected not just by changes in food security but social unrest, human migration and potential violent conflict. The need to ‘grow’ is growing urgent. Chew on that.