However, industrialised countries could see an increase in their crop yields, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf said in a speech in Chennai, India.

“Crop yield potential is likely to increase at higher latitudes for global average temperature increases of up to 1 to 3°C depending on the crop, and then decrease beyond that,” he said.

The impacts of climate change on forests and on forest dependent people are already evident in increased incidences of forest fires and outbreaks of forest pests and diseases, says the UN. Climate change adaptation will be needed in a variety of ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems (crops, livestock and grasslands) forests and woodlands, inland waters and coastal and marine ecosystems, according to Diouf.

“At lower latitudes, especially in the seasonally dry tropics, crop yield potential is likely to decline for even small global temperature rises, which would increase the risk of hunger,” Mr. Diouf noted in his address.

Diouf said that the role of science and technology would be key over the next three decades for agricultural production.

But, he cautioned, most genetically modified (GM) crops being cultivated today were developed to be herbicide tolerant and resistant to pests. Development of GM crops with traits valuable for poor farmers, especially within the context of climate change – such as resistance to drought, extreme temperatures, soil acidity and salinity – is not yet a reality.

“I cannot sufficiently underline the need to also address the needs of resource-poor farmers in rain-fed areas and on marginal lands,” Dr. Diouf said.

“Ensuring that new biotechnologies help achieve this goal, in full awareness of bio-safety, socio-economic and ethical concerns associated with the use of some of these technologies remains a challenge for the entire scientific community.”

Dana Gornitzki

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