Climate-change-induced crop losses will make many countries in the global South more dependent on food imports.
Photo: Jörg Böthling


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At first glance, global commodity flows and sustainable development do not exactly seem compatible. But the following article shows that international trade can indeed contribute to addressing critical food security and sustainability concerns in agriculture, including by offsetting climate change-induced production shocks. It also argues that good-faith environmental policies in agriculture are compatible with global trade rules but cautions against the possible challenges they may pose to developing countries.

One of the greatest challenges facing the global food system is feeding nine billion people by 2050 and responding to the rapidly changing diet of a growing middle class in urban areas. Part of the solution involves improving access to food by the poor, which would however also require raising production by an estimated 50 or 70 per cent. This is likely to put significant pressure on already stretched natural resources such as land or water. Growing production could also raise greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), already represent nearly a quarter of global emissions when counting together agriculture, forestry and other land use. In short, the challenge is to improve access and productivity in a way that protects biodiversity and rationalises the use of water at a time when food systems become increasingly vulnerable to climate change.

Besides boosting productivity, especially for smallholders, international trade is likely to play a critical role in this equation.

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