Food security crisis will be felt globally by 2050, say experts
ABU DHABI // Environmentally sustainable farming will be key to tackling a 70 per cent increase in demand for food by 2050, according to the Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi raised concerns about current practices at the third Global Forum of Innovations in Agriculture on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.
The two-day event attracted scientists and agricultural specialists from more than 80 countries and is a platform for a debate over global food security and water scarcity.
“The task at hand is immense, the globalised nature of the food supply chain means that no country, region or continent is immune to food insecurity,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.
He said although this phenomenon was a global challenge, it would first be felt in the Middle East where the arid climate posed particular problems when it came to feeding growing populations.
“Climate change is perhaps the greatest long-term challenge to farming, the increasing frequency of droughts and floods, changing rainfall patterns, steadily increasing surface temperatures and extreme weather phenomena will make food production increasingly difficult,” he said.
He said there had to be a holistic approach, because 20 per cent of greenhouse gasses came from agriculture, resulting in a cyclical dilemma that called for an end to traditional environmentally degrading methods of agriculture.
Dr Al Zeyoudi called for another “Green Revolution”, alluding to the 1960s boom in agricultural production, except this time the food being produced should have positive effects on humanity and the environment.
Others agreed. Aiden Cotter, chief executive of the Irish Food Board responsible for the carbon assessment of the country’s agricultural production, said lessons learnt in Ireland could be transferred elsewhere.
“Despite Ireland given ideal circumstances for agriculture, we think that through carbon footprinting and eco-monitoring we can transfer lessons learnt in Ireland abroad,” he said.
Deterring carbon footprinting is the process of analysing the total amount of greenhouse gases produced directly by any one human activity, usually in carbon dioxide.
Ireland has some of the most eco-friendly agricultural practices, despite it being one of the biggest exporters of beef.
According to the European Commission, it has the best air quality, and according to Yale University, none of its land is under water strain.
Mr Cotter said that monitoring agricultural practices – they have conducted more than 100,000 analyses of carbon footprinting in Ireland – was the key to success and future of environmentally friendly growth.
Innovation, he said, was key.
During the conference, Masdar announced it would be opening a research facility on a two-hectare site at Masdar City, to be used as a platform to explore the commercial viability of a sustainable bioenergy system that produces food and fuel.
The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium is a research project aimed at producing alternative fuel without using arable land or fresh water in a desert environment.
“In an interconnected world where rapidly growing populations stress our finite resources, the UAE is addressing food security challenges,” said Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, interim provost, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. “The challenge of food security is also an unprecedented opportunity to advance ideas and innovations that are both sustainable and economically viable.”
The UAE imports about 90 per cent of its food and that demand is predicted to increase by 300 per cent over the next decade, Dr Al Yousuf said.
“Next month, we will begin operating the world’s first bioenergy research facility using desert land, irrigated by seawater, to produce food and aviation fuels,” said Dr Al Yousuf.
“Abu Dhabi’s commitment to advance cutting-edge research that addresses water and food security underpins the country’s transformation into an economy driven by knowledge capital.”
Updated: February 16, 2016 04:00 AM