News at Medicine - November 2020 - Fork interrupted

Fork interrupted
December 18, 2019
How secure is our food in a world of climate change?
As we see more extreme weather patterns around the globe and witness sea levels rising and the spread of illness, climate change and its impact on food security is something that researchers are urging policy makers and people in our communities to see out sustainable solutions to a growing problem.
Dr. Atanu Sarkar, associate professor of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Faculty of Medicine’s Division of Community Health and Humanities is one of over 70 researcher who came together to publish a volume focusing on food security and how we can address this issue. In addition to his research contributions, including a chapter examining adaptation strategic and major challenges for India, he also edited all chapters and authored an introduction and the conclusion.

Sustainable Solutions for Food Security contains the latest technological solutions and governance frameworks for sustainable food security that have been tested across the globe. Divided into three sections, 1) climate smart technology, adaptive breeding and genomics, 2) natural resource and landscape management, 3) strategies for access to food, technology, knowledge and equity and risk governance, the volume was published by Springer Nature Switzerland in 2019.

What makes this book unique? While there are several books on how climate change affects food security, there are very few that address on adaptation strategies.

One idea discussed is the need to make crops to adapt to changing climate and focus on crops that tolerate extreme temperatures or conditions. Dr. Sarkar explained that 95 per cent of crops in Newfoundland and Labrador come from out of province that impacts our food supply and concerns about food security if there is a interruption in availability.
How did Dr. Sarkar get involved with this project? He explained that in 2015, he was invited to a conference on global food security at Cornell University, USA, where he met several global experts in the field of climate change and food security and the pieces started to fall into place.

“As the lead editor of the book, I connected with potential contributors at Cornell University and then looked for global experts on various specialized issues,” said Dr. Sarkar.

With so many layers within society impacting food security, it was realized that a broad range of researchers were necessary for the collaboration.

“We identified the agriculture scientists working on climate smart crops. Some scientists are working on smart management of natural resources such as water, soil. There were also some development experts who worked on social dimensions of the solutions.

While considered to be academic literature, the wide range of topics and in-depth information can benefit a diverse audience, from students, researchers to policy makers. Available as a full book or by chapter, as of Dec. 11, 2019 there have been over 11,000 downloads.
What is the next step? Given the rise in climate change awareness due in part to climate strikes across the globe and activists like Greta Thunberg, Dr. Sarkar believes this as an opportunity to focus on research that can lead to solutions.