Tuesday, December 01, 2015

As Big Food Feels Threat Of Climate Change, Companies Speak Up

[NPR] Chances are, you've picked up some chatter about the new global talks on climate change. If you can't quite see how it matters to you, personally, you might want to take a peek inside your pantry. Or your candy jar. Because it might just affect your access to everything from cheese to chocolate.
"It's very clear now that a changing climate will have a profound effect on agriculture," says Molly Brown, a geographer at the University of Maryland.
Take one simple example, she says: Vermont.
Farmers in this state used to count on being able to plant corn in May, she says. But weather patterns are shifting. The month of May is now typically cold and wet, "so they're really not able to plant their corn until the middle of June. That delays its harvest. And then we might have an early frost."
The result is less corn for Vermont's cows, and less local milk for the state's dairies. "It really changes the economic structure of how dairy products are produced in Vermont," Brown says.
This kind of thing is happening all over the world, sometimes with life-changing consequences.
In Ethiopia, Brown says, the country's traditional center of farming now isn't getting enough rain for its crops. Meanwhile, rain is falling in another region, in the northern part of Ethiopia, where few people live because it used to be really dry. "So the question is, do people move up north? Can they simply move the way they farm to that new region?"
Most farmers can't really see the the big global patterns of climate change, and certainly can't change what's happening.
But big multinational companies can see it, because they buy shiploads of farm products from all over the world.
Take, for example, Mars, Inc., maker of Mars bars, M&M's, Snickers, Skittles and more. Read More