Systemic threats to the planet’s food source
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Systemic threats to the planet’s food source

In a recent article for The Conversation, Anthony Janetos, director of the Frederick S. Pardee center for the study of long-range future, and professor of Earth and environment at Boston University, presented a concerning possibility for the future of food. What, he asked, if our biggest food crops all failed at the same time?

Wen it comes to agriculture, the world is less diverse than we may imagine. Just three big cereal crops – corn, wheat, and rice – are responsible for the majority of our food. Not only do they make up a significant portion of what we eat on a daily basis, but they supply the building blocks of many processed foods, and the nourishment with which we rear our meat. It is also true that less than one quarter of the Earth’s total cropland provides nearly three quarters of these crops.

Where in the world does food come from?


SOURCE: The Conversation

According to Janetos, shortfalls in crop production have had a smaller impact historically than they could have today. Previously, the fortune of crops has not been tied to one another – a catastrophic weather event that impacted one region may have no impact on another. And because the areas in which these crops are grown are spread throughout the planet, when one crop has suffered, it has served only to raise prices for that crop in nearby regions.

However, in a globalized world that s undergoing global warming, the potential exists for far greater problems.

As temperatures rise and threaten crops abilities to grow, it is conceivable that all three crops could falter at once – and because we now live in a globalized community, the entire planet would be at risk from such an event. This would cause mass starvation, but Janetos’ research also suggests it would cause huge political and social upheavals.

Ultimately, some of the best solutions to crop preservation are currently coming from the private sector. Genetically modified organism companies like Syngenta are developing seed strains that are more resistant to high temperature and consume less water. Water technology companies like Xylem Inc., and Halma Plc., are developing innovations that allow our water source – itself, a massive contributory factor in the ability to produce crops – to suffer less wastage, and grow through means like recycling, reuse and desalinization.


Dominion holds Syngenta, Xylem Inc., Halma Plc., and a number of other related companies in its Global Trends Managed Fund.

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