How might the changing climate affect our food and health? (Image: Nicola Jones)
A new Wellcome Trust funded study should soon be able to tell us how the food we eat will be impacted by environmental change over the next 20 to 30 years.
Multiple environmental factors, such as climate change, rainfall and loss of pollinators, have previously been predicted to impact on the future of agriculture and food production. However, it is still unclear what the overall effect of such factors will be on global food and nutrition security, especially in developing countries. Previous work has evaluated how single factors might influence the global food system, but so far none have been considered in combination.
This two year project, run in collaboration between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Harvard University, and the University of Reading, will be the first to assess how multiple environmental stresses will simultaneously impact availability, quality and price of the food in our shops and on our plates.
Our diets could be affected (Image: Natalie Maynor)
As well as environmental change, researchers will also take into account production and consumption patterns, as well as other economic and demographic factors such as global food markets, population health, population growth and urbanisation. This broad analysis will result in a model that will describe how environment and agriculture link with food availability, affordability and quality.
Eventually, this model will be used to assess the real term impacts of environmental change on the household food bills, diet and health in three example countries: the UK, Mexico and Ethiopia. The first stage of the study will focus on environmental impacts on food availability for a range of different people and regions.
The project will be funded as part of The Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Health Initiative, a global funding scheme looking to promote research into the impact of a changing world on the future of human health.
Dr Alan Dangour, Reader in Food and Nutrition for Global Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Principal Investigator for the project, said: “There is potential for environmental stresses to have a tremendous impact on food and nutrition security in the UK, and worldwide… This research will give us a much clearer understanding of how environmental stresses are intricately linked with the availability of nutritious food globally… We hope that this study will provide the necessary grounding to prevent, or prepare for, what’s on the horizon.”
For more on this story see the Wellcome Trust and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine websites.