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September 7, 2010

Unpredictable Weather Could Lead To Global Food Crisis

Experts meeting in Stockholm during the annual World Water Week conference are concerned that unpredictable weather patterns around the world could endanger global food security, according to Tuesday reports from AFP's Nina Larson.

"We are getting to a point where we are getting more water, more rainy days, but it's more variable, so it leads to droughts and it leads to floods," Sunita Narain, the head of the Centre for Science and Environment in India, told Larson during the conference. "That is leading to huge amounts of stress on agriculture and livelihoods"¦ [and] climate change is making rainfall even more variable."

Thus far, 2010 has brought a terrible drought and a string of wildfires in Russia, as well as severe flooding in Pakistan. According to Larson, as many as eight million people in Pakistan are reliant upon food shipments from other locations, and nearly a quarter of Russia's crops have either been burned or choked out due to lack of water. As a result, wheat prices have spiked internationally, and leaders are growing more and more concerned that there will be "a crisis in global food supplies."

World Water Week, which opened on Sunday at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and will run until September 11, is "the leading annual global meeting place for capacity-building, partnership-building and follow-up on the implementation of international processes and programs in water and development," according to the conference's annual website.

More than 2,500 experts from 200 organizations in 130 countries have gathered at this year's event, including Colin Chartres of the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI), who warned that "millions of farmers in communities dependent on rain-fed agriculture are at risk from decreasing and erratic availability of water."

According to Larson, "Some 66 percent of total crops in Asia are not irrigated, while in Africa a full 94 percent is rain-fed, according to the institute, which estimates that around 500 million people in Africa and India would benefit from improved agricultural water management."

"While accepting that the world has recently experienced extreme weather shifts, Jan Lundqvist, who chairs the Stockholm International Water Institute's Scientific Program Committee, is wary on blaming global warming," the AFP reporter added. "Pointing out that there have been periods of extreme weather patterns before, he said: 'These kinds of fluctuations are part of human history, but climate change is probably making them more extreme.'"

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Image Caption: A NASA Satellite Image Showing Indus river at the time of floods.

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