Sustainability, a 7 Billion Global Population and Climate Change Talks

By Alison Withers

The media has been focusing on the expected announcement the United Nations in October 2011 of the birth of the world's seven billionth baby.

It has also been anticipating this year's annual Climate Change talks due to start in Durban in late November. There seems to be little optimism that this year will see much positive action to reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change, as enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol, the climate change treaty.

There are fears that as countries struggle with the ongoing economic crisis enthusiasm in the developed world for tackling climate change and for improving progress on sustainable farming and reducing food waste is diminishing.

The founder director of Forum for the Future, Sara Parkin, argues that richer countries, particularly the EU and the US, there do not see the current crisis as an opportunity to move their economy towards a low-carbon lifestyle.

The politicians seem to be relying on economic growth as the cure for the economic crisis as well as being essential to meeting the food needs of the world's ever-increasing population. However, there are a number of initiatives that could be taken with more urgency immediately.

The Worldwatch Insttitute argues that, given the UN Food and Agriculture Organization figures showing that industrialized countries waste 222 million tons of food a year, if less food were wasted, the world would be able to feed more people and use fewer resources.

Recently an unemployed UK man posted a blog expressing his anger that, when increasing numbers of people in the country were having to depend on charity food parcels, thousands of tonnes of food are thrown away every day by big supermarkets for being past the sell-by date, despite still being fit for human consumption. He called the practice a ridiculous waste, forced on the stores by health and safety laws.

This is certainly one issue that needs to be tackled urgently, but another is providing more support to farmers all over the world, particularly the small farmers, to increase their production, reduce crop loss and protect their land's fertility.

This is particularly pertinent following doubts recently cast by an NGO on GM crops in the developing world, which it said had failed to live up to their promise as a solution to food shortages. Its Global Citizens' Report on the State of GMOs highlighted greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals to control pests and the growth of pesticide resistant superweeds where GM crops have been grown.

Yet there is an alternative where significant investment could help to produce quicker, safer and greener results and that is in the research work being carried out by the Biopesticides Developers into low-chemical agricultural products derived from natural sources.

While there are already some of their biopesticides already on the market, the length of time and investment needed to trial and get these products licensed and registered in each country is huge. Shifting the investment focus to these activities to speed up the process may be a much more sound economic sense.

Alison Withers
Article by Alison Withers
Investing in research into low-chemical agricultural products to promote sustainability and reducing waste to improve food supply makes sense in an economic crisis.

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