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Global Food Security Plans Too Narrow

Global plans to reduce hunger by boosting food production are too narrowly focused on farming without considering how to slow population growth or halt climate change, longtime environmental analyst Lester Brown said Sept. 29.

The Obama administration and leaders of other wealthy nations have promised to spend more money and coordinate efforts to reduce the chronic hunger that plagues more than one billion people in the world.

But the initiatives fail to recognize the need to stabilize climate and population, said Brown, who has been writing about how to fix the planet for more than 30 years.

“If we don’t address these two issues seriously, there’s not a chance that we’re going to be able to increase food security and eradicate hunger in the world,” said Brown, noting he was struck by “the narrowness of the approach” to food security.

Brown was speaking to reporters as he launched a new edition of his prescription for saving the planet called “Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.”

Brown warns of dire consequences from food shortages as climate change hurts crops at a time when rising population and incomes increase demand for grain and meat.

The world must make dramatic changes in energy, transport, population, food and environmental policy, he argues.

Grain prices soared to record levels last year, causing riots and hoarding in some countries, and sparking a move for import-dependent rich countries to secure farmland in mainly poorer regions to ease food security.

The United Nations’ World Food Program estimates more than a billion people are chronically hungry and Brown believes that could soar past 1.2 billion by 2015.

Water shortages for irrigating crops caused by drained aquifers and melting glaciers could threaten wheat and rice harvests in China and India, which would pressure food prices higher, Brown said.

“If these climate stresses keep building, if food security continues to deteriorate, we’re in trouble as a civilization,” he said.

The United Nations has said the world needs to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050.

Yield gains from new genetically modified crops probably will be much smaller than the dramatic increases in wheat and rice that helped reduce famine 40 years ago, Brown said.

“I don’t see another Green Revolution in the cards,” he said, adding leaders need to “get the brakes on population” to improve food security around the world.

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