Environment, Science

The gourd, the bad and the ugly

Food security is one of largest humanitarian challenges facing future populations. In recent years the threat of climate change and its influence on crop yields has been a major talking point for many scientists and campaigners.

Extreme weather events such as droughts have had unprecedented effects on crop yields. Droughts are becoming more common, threatening global food markets and increasing prices.

The UN recently gave warning of rising food costs as supermarkets struggle to stock their shelves. Although any one weather event cannot be definitely linked to manmade climate change, it can be said that today, no climate event is without human influence.

The UK is particularly vulnerable due to our reliance on imported goods – we currently import 89% of our fruit and vegetables from abroad. It is not just droughts affecting crop harvest, however.

UK food stocks have been affected by the wettest summer for over 100 years (after the driest March in 59 years). Damp conditions have damaged many well-known UK crops including strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli and British grape growers were forced to “blow-dry” crops in order to prevent rotting.

The National Farmers’ Union also recently warned us of low wheat yields, another indicator of an upward pressure on prices.

As a result, “ugly” fruit and vegetables are making their way onto our shelves as a result, as supermarkets relax their standards, selling produce that would normally be ploughed back into the land.

The deformed potato pictured above gives an idea of the shape of things to come, which may not be entirely negative; the UK Soil Association estimates that 20-40% of UK produce is rejected due to its appearance before it reaches the shops.

While perfectly edible food being “graded in” instead of out is a welcome change to many, climate change is continually damaging food production and causing prices to soar, requiring urgent action to slash emissions and an overhaul of our agricultural system.


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January 2022
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