Climate, food and health are interrelated in many complex ways. Food supply and food safety are important themes in these areas.
The climate influences food production. Temperature and precipitation determine which crops can be grown. Climate change can affect food production when climate zones shift. When it gets warmer, some crops can no longer, or instead can be grown in the Netherlands.
The effect of climate change on the food supply can be both positive and negative. More CO2 carbon dioxide will lead to a longer growing season, but weather extremes can lead to lower yields. There will also be other diseases and pests in food production as a result of temperature change.
Conversely, consumers' food choices affect food production and thus influence climate change. Think, for example, of the emission of greenhouse gases. RIVM calculates the environmental impact of food and its influence on our health. This allows us to calculate what changes in our consumption are needed to achieve a more sustainable and healthy diet (Ocké et al., 2016).
The transition to a healthy and sustainable food system is necessary. It is important that this includes the entire chain, from production to consumption (De Krom & Muilwijk, 2018). Reducing food waste is an important spearhead in this process.
Adaptation and mitigation measures will consist of stimulating a food transition and focus on crop diversity. Crop diversity can lead to risk spreading and to the development of crops that are more resistant to extreme weather, such as floods, heat and drought.
Climate change can also lead to changes in geographic distribution and/or seasonal variation of foodborne pathogens and infections.
For example, higher temperatures and changes in precipitation can increase the risk of Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria contamination. This is especially true when food is not adequately refrigerated. To reduce the risks, it is therefore important to refrigerate properly. There are also pathogens that are less resistant to heat. Whether climate change will ultimately lead to more or fewer pathogens has not yet been calculated.
Want to read more? Knowledge agenda on Climate and Health
- Ocké, M.C., Toxopeus, I.B., Geurts, M., Mengelers, M.J.B., Temme, E.H.M., Hoeymans, N. (2017) What is on our plate? Safe, healthy and sustainable diets in the Netherlands. RIVM report 2017-0024.
- De Krom, M. & Muilwijk, H. (2018). Perspectieven op duurzaam voedsel. Pluriformiteit in debat en beleid, Den Haag: PBL.