Ireland’s Agricultural Sector’s Role in Food Security in the Wake of Climate Change

2016

The growing human population is putting pressure on the Earth’s arable land to produce more food, while this land, and other natural resources are deteriorating in quality and abundance as the human-enhanced greenhouse effect strengthens the negative impacts of climate change. This phenomenon is described by Kanayo F. Nwanze, the President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in the sense that, “It is clear that food security and climate change, humanity’s two greatest challenges in the 21st century, are inextricably linked” (UN, 2011). To meet the demands of the ever-increasing human population and the a rising trend of overconsumption has led to an unsustainable use of natural resources, which has driven biodiversity loss, nitrogen and phosphorus saturation, ocean acidification, depletion of global freshwater, stratospheric ozone depletion, chemical pollution, atmospheric aerosol overloading, and change in land use (Rockstorm, 2009). These examples of environmental degradation underline the link between climate change and food security. In pursuit of ensuring food security, the global population increase has amplified the forces determining climate change and in turn climate change has limited the population’s capacity to ensure food security.

In the newly developed strategic plans, Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM), claims that Ireland will play a key role in meeting global demands for food, while overcoming the challenges of food security and climate change. Ireland’s agricultural sector seeks to meet global demands largely through increasing trade in dairy, beef and fish to EU markets and increasingly so to international markets. Ultimately, Ireland’s strategic agricultural economic plans outline Ireland’s place in the global food system and therefore determines Ireland’s role in global food security. This paper examines the influence that Ireland’s agricultural sector has on global food production, consumption, human health and environmental sustainability. Further, it assesses whether Ireland’s actions, will or will not make a significant contribution to overcoming the challenges of food security and climate change.

In light of Ireland’s agricultural sector’s existing activities and future projections, this assessment finds that instead of contributing to food security, the dairy, beef and fishing industries destabilize sustainable development in food security. This is realized by, Irish agri-food products contributing to a global disconnect between supply and demand, and feeding into a food system that fosters disparity in nutrition consumption. Increasing dairy and meat production and consumption in developed and emerging economy countries encourages overconsumption in middle-income and high-income household’s consequential increasing health issues such as obesity. In addition, environmental degradation is magnified through further total GHG (Green House Gas) emissions, from increasing Irish dairy and beef for export to high-end markets. Thus resulting in, potentially pushing adequate nutrition and the ability to sustain local production, out of reach for those facing food insecurity.