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628. One Earth: Research Priorities for Global Food Security Under Extreme Events

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Today, heat waves, floods, droughts, pest outbreaks, financial crises, and military conflicts are all occurring simultaneously worldwide, threatening stable food production and supply. While the probability of these extraordinary events is increasing, our ability to respond is limited. Nevertheless, in the search for solutions to improve the resilience of the food system, researchers and policy makers are often forced to deal with each problem on an individual basis.

A paper published in One Earth asked researchers to identify the research questions that should be given the highest priority over the next 20 years. As a result, several cross-disciplinary priorities emerged. One of these, "compounding events and cascading risks," is presented below.

Examples of concurrent disaster risks include the simultaneous occurrence of heat waves and droughts in sub-Saharan Africa, monsoon and meltwater disruptions in Asia, and continuous exposure to crises such as those that hit breadbasket areas at the global level. Factors contributing to these correlated crises include shifts in temperature distributions in multiple regions, disturbances in atmospheric circulation patterns such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, Rossby waves, and the transition to unprecedented weather regimes over the long term as we cross climate tipping points.

The exposure of food systems to cascading risks is also becoming an increasing concern. The risk of disruptions to infrastructure, transportation, and utility systems, as well as disruptions at key points in the food supply chain, can have simultaneous or sequential impacts on multiple processes and actors in the food system.

The paper describes other priority issues such as vulnerability and adaptive capacity, and cooperation and conflict.

The paper organizes the research questions that address these priorities into three main areas: better maps and prediction to enable discovery and monitoring of food system challenges, proactive evaluation of new technologies, and insights into improving food security; and the need for a better understanding of the key elements of food security, but also of the farmers' strengths that have the greatest impact in extreme events. The three main areas of intervention are better maps and predictions, farm-level interventions, and food system transformation. 

While the need for system-level interventions is well recognized, the paper pointed out that food system transformation, cannot be achieved without improving problem visualization and forecasting, and strengthening farmers' resilience and adaptive capacity. Transforming food systems to strengthen resilience has been the subject of discussion at international forums such as last year's Food Systems Summit. However, concerns about the unequal distribution of power and resources in the current food system have divided stakeholders on what solutions should be used to strengthen food system resilience. The paper emphasizes the role of information in overcoming the status quo.

Zia Mehrabi et al, Research priorities for global food security under extreme events, One Earth (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.oneear.2022.06.008

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Information Program)


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