Food for thought: Climate change threatens China's food security

Feature Story - 2008-10-15
Climate change doesn't just mean a "warmer" world, it also means a "hungrier" world. A new Greenpeace report, released on the eve of World Food Day 2008, is warning that climate change is threatening China's food security.

Eco-farming, such as raising ducks in rice fields, is the best strategy for adapting to climate change.

China may not even be able to produce enough food to feed its people by as early as 2030 under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario, says the report: "Climate Change and Food Security in China."

"Climate change is affecting agricultural production through changes in temperature, water availability, soil condition, extreme weathers, crop diseases and pest outbreaks," said the report's leading author and China's top scientist for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Lin Erda from the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

"Under a high greenhouse gas emission scenario, basic food supplies will become insufficient around 2030," said Lin.

Other data shows that temperature rise, loss of arable land and water scarcity will cut China's overall food production by up to 23 percent by 2050.

Read Greenpeace China's press release here.

Read the executive summary of the report here (pdf).

So what's the answer?

In a nutshell: eco-farming.

Data on farming from around the world provides unequivocal evidence that mixing different crops and varieties is a proven and reliable method of increasing crop resilience to erratic weather changes.

Biodiversity-intensive farming reduces the probability of pests and diseases by diluting the availability of their hosts. Millions of farms on all continents prove that organic and sustainable agriculture can increase food security, replenish natural resources and provide better livelihoods for farmers and local communities.

Take Farmer Weng Falin for example. He owns 200mu of organic rice fields in Jiangsu province in the southeast of China. The ducks he raises on his rice fields eat pests, weeds, and trample the muddy water helping to make the rice plants grow strong.

Keeping ducks on his rice paddies means he doesn't have to use poisonous herbicides and pesticides.

In 2005 when there was a huge planthopper plague, Farmer Weng's rice survived intact, while his neighbours, who practice chemical agriculture, lost their fields.

Watch our Greenpeace documentary below about Farmer Weng's organic duck-rice fields.

China needs to encourage eco-farms

A parallel investigation by Greenpeace in China's Jiangsu and Guizhou provinces also provides examples of how China's farmers benefit from ecological agriculture, despite extreme weather events such as typhoons and snow storms.

"China is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Ecological agriculture, which works with nature rather than against it, can drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Greenpeace climate campaigner Li Yan said.

China's food security can only be guaranteed if the government takes immediate action to cut its greenhouse gas emissions and adopts policies encouraging more climate-friendly ecological agriculture.

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