Climate change is no myth. It is real and here to stay. That being said, climate change, agriculture and nutrition are intrinsically linked. A recent review by Fanzo et al., (2018), details the effects of climate change across the food system and their implications for nutrition outcomes. According to these authors, climate change impacts under-nutrition via three major pathways:
- Household food security
- Child feeding and care practices
- Environmental health and access to health services
Additionally, climate change impacts food availability, costs, and overall calorie consumption, as well as the quality of foods consumed. From a food systems perspective, climate change has the ability to impact all aspects of the food supply chain from farm to fork, including agricultural production, storage, processing and distribution, retail and marketing, in addition to preparation of food and consumption (HLPE, 2017).
The food value chain is impacted by climate effects through a variety of forces which include agricultural yields, nutritional quality of crops, access to food, an increase in food borne pathogens, and a need for energy intensive cold storage chains.
Fanzo et al., (2017a and 2017b), outline a spectrum of processes involved in the food supply chain from input to utilization, with a goal to improve nutrition entering the value chain and reducing nutrition exiting in the face of climate change.
These authors go on to describe climate smart food systems that “engage producer and consumer decision making, through a triple-win scenario”, which improves production of food, minimizes losses and reduces green-house gas emissions from agriculture and implements adaptation strategies for the most vulnerable (Lipper et al., 2014).
In the context of agri-innovation, researchers working across the agri-nutrition spectrum are engaged in a variety of projects that enhance the utilization and use of technologies to improve nutrition while mitigating the effects of climate change. One such innovation is highlighted in the development of provitamin A (proVA) enriched maize, which is resistant to aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxins are secondary metabolites of fungi that impact food and feed across the food system. Suwarno et al., (2019), describe the development of a grain hybrid with larger concentrations of beta-carotene (BC), beta-cryptoxanthin (BCX) and total proVA which has significantly less aflatoxin contamination, while also addressing the globally relevant issue of vitamin A deficiency.
Innovations such as these are just one example of the intersection of agricultural and nutrition research with the larger aim of reducing the effects of climate change particularly on vulnerable communities globally. As the effects of climate change become increasingly more visible, our roles as nutrition scientists, working cross-sectorally, also become increasingly pertinent.
Fanzo J, Downs S, Marshall QE, de Pee S, Bloem MW. 2017a. Value chain focus on food and nutrition security. Nutrition and Health in a Developing World. Springer International Publishing., Cham. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-43739-2_34.
Suwarno WB, Hannok P, Palacios-Rojas N, Windham G, Crossa J, & Pixley KV. 2019. Provitamin A carotenoids in grain reduce Aflatoxin contamination of maize while combating vitamin A deficiency. Frontiers in Plant Science, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.00030.
Lipper L, Thornton P, Campbell BM, Baedeker T, Braimoh A, Bwalya M, Caron P, Cattaneo A, Garrity D, Henry K, Hottle R, Jackson L, Jarvis A, Kossam F, Mann W, McCarthy N, Meybeck A, Neufeldt H, Remington T, Sen PT, Sessa R, Shula R, Tibu A, Torquebiau EF. 2014. Climate-smart agriculture for food security. Nature Climate Change, 4, 1068–1072. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2437.