Climate change affecting food safety: researchers warn

February 22, 2011 10:46 am 

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22 — Climate change is already having an effect on the safety of the world's food supplies, and, unless action is taken, it's only going to get worse, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) reported on Monday.

The warning came from several nationally known experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Economic Research Service, the Michigan State University and the University of California, Los Angeles, according to the release.

The experts warned that food safety is already an issue and will worsen unless climate change is confronted, the release said.

"Accelerating climate change is inevitable with implications for animal products and crops," said Ewen Todd, a professor of advertising at Michigan State University. "At this point, the effects of climate change on food safety are poorly understood."

However, there are already a number of examples of climate change taking its toll on the world's food supply, Todd said in remarks published by the AAAS.

One is Vibrio, a pathogen typically found in warm ocean water which is now becoming more common in the north as water temperatures rise, said Todd, also a fellow of the AAAS.

"It's been moving further up the coast these past few years," he said. "There was an outbreak of it near Alaska in 2005 when water temperature reached 15 degrees Celsius."

Todd also said that extreme weather – droughts and heavy rains – is having an impact on the world's food supply. In some areas crops are being wiped out, resulting in higher prices and other issues.

Drought and starvation can lead to mycotoxins which pose a health threat to humans, Todd said.

"Mycotoxins are molds that can sometimes cause illness in humans, and where you have drought and starvation there can be a mycotoxin problem," he said. "That's because people will store their meager resources of crops for longer than they should." (PNA/Xinhua)



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