Climate change said threat to food safety

Feb. 21, 2011 at 5:56 PM   |   Comments

EAST LANSING, Mich., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The safety of the world's food supply is under threat from climate change and the damage is going to get worse unless action is taken, a U.S. researcher says.

Michigan State University Professor Ewen Todd says the effects of climate change on food safety, though poorly understood, is inevitable and must be addressed, a MSU release reported Monday.

There are already examples of climate change taking its toll on the world's food supply, he said, giving as an example a disease pathogen known as vibrio, typically found in warm ocean water but now becoming more common in the north as water temperatures rise.

"It's been moving farther 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 (59 degrees F)."

Other disease risks are also growing, he 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."

Extreme weather, including droughts and heavy rains, is having an impact on the world's food supply, he said, and in some areas crops are being wiped out, resulting in higher prices and other issues.

"Accelerating climate change is inevitable with implications for animal products and crops," Todd said. "At this point, the effects of climate change on food safety are poorly understood."

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