The climate change diet
We all need food to survive, but what happens if our food runs out? Thanks to climate change, studies suggest that some of our most important crops could be in danger of becoming extinct.
What is the problem?
According to scientists, there have been six “mass extinctions” of wildlife on Earth. Most were caused by natural disasters. One mass extinction event happened 65 million years ago when a giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. The sixth one is happening right now. Humans have been destroying animal habitats, polluting the environment and causing climate change.
What has this got to do with food?
This extinction event affects plants and farm animals. Last year, a report said that the world’s food supply is failing. Many plants and animals grown for food are endangered.
What foods could disappear?
Around 20% of wild potatoes could be extinct by 2055. Cocoa, one of the main ingredients in chocolate, is also under threat. If global temperatures rise by 2C, it will be too hot for cocoa trees to grow.
Surely humans will survive without chips and chocolate?
Yes, but humans have been making poor decisions about the crops they grow. In 1903, there were 307 varieties of sweetcorn seed available in the US. By 1983, there were only 12. If one kind of sweetcorn crop fails, we only have 11 others to rely on. This is the same for many other kinds of plants we eat.
Why did farmers stop growing different kinds of food?
Farmers grow food that will give them the biggest yield. Their crops are bought by companies that want their food supply to be reliable. This means they want the same amount of food from their farmers, and they want it all to look and taste the same. High yields are good in the short term, but plants with fewer seed varieties could become diseased and die out.
What would happen then?
If key crops are destroyed, it would be disastrous. One study showed that every 10 years, there is a 6% chance that maize crops will fail in the US and China at the same time. Maize is used in many different kinds of food. If crops failed in both countries, the world might not have enough to eat.
What could we do to stop it?
If things got that bad, there is a backup plan. Buried deep into the ice of the Norwegian island of Svalbard is the Global Seed Vault. Inside, researchers are busy collecting a sample of every existing seed on the planet. This will stop more plants dying out, and protect humans from worldwide famine.
Researchers also believe the answer could lie in growing different types of food. There are between 250,000 and 300,000 edible plants in the world. But humans only grow between 150 and 200 of them.
It would also help if we all started eating insects! By replacing half of our meat consumption with crickets, we could cut farmland by a third, and reduce the effects of climate change.
- Would you start eating insects to help the environment?
- Write a recipe for a delicious meal that uses insects. Imagine what this meal would look like and draw a picture. Would you have the stomach to eat this meal? What benefits would there be for the environment if more people ate insects?
- Mass extinctions
- When many different species of living animals and plants die and no longer exist.
- Natural disasters
- A natural event such as a flood, earthquake or hurricane. These cause a lot of damage and loss of life.
- The natural home or environment of an animal, plant or other organism.
- An animal or species at risk of becoming extinct.
- The amount produced. A high yield of maize, for example, means a large amount of maize has been produced.
- The different types of something.
- Not having enough food that causes people to starve.