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29 Aug 2019, 12:41
Edgar Meza

Locally produced food could feed most city dwellers, German climate researchers say

In a global analysis of the potential of local food production to feed hungry cities in the present and in future, researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have found that a large number of urban residents in many parts of the world could be nourished by local agriculture, but climate change might eliminate that option if greenhouse gas emissions are not rapidly reduced. The report points out that billions of tons of agricultural products – from New Zealand apples and California avocados to Argentine steaks – are transported daily to cities around the globe on roads, rail and water, stressing that “this food transport is linked to a huge amount of CO2 emissions”. Co-author Prajal Pradhan adds that a growing world population means growing urban infrastructures, growing resource consumption and growing greenhouse gas emissions. “That’s why we asked ourselves: What would happen if cities sourced their food from local agriculture in areas surrounding them? How many people could be nourished, how much CO2 could be avoided by reduced transport needs? And last: would unmitigated global warming change the picture?”

Using a new Urban Assessment Model developed at PIK, the researchers analysed the nourishment potential of local agriculture on land surrounding urban areas and investigated food transport in order to show how optimisations would reduce the environmental food-print of cities. "Of course, feeding our cities by local agriculture is not a switch we could simply flip, and self-sufficient cities would not be able to just duplicate what's on our plates today," lead author Steffen Kriewald explains. "Regional agriculture would not be able to produce all foods on our menu in a globalised food world, however, nutrition requirements could be met in many regions of the world, our study shows."

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