Vegetables Endangered By Environmental Change

Healthy, plant-based diets may be harder to maintain by 2050, at least in certain parts of the world. As a result of various environmental changes, such as water scarcity, climate change, air pollution and salinization, global agricultural production is likely to experience negative effects. Yearly average yields with regards to vegetables is estimated to be cut by a full third, according to one report published in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences.

About the report

For the first time, all the available evidence on the impact of environmental change on yields and quality of vegetables and legumes has been put together in one report, and the findings indicate the serious and lasting impact climate change will have if drastic changes are not implemented. It is based in a systematic review of 174 studies – which report 1540 experiments – that have been examining the impact of environmental exposures on yield and nutritional content of vegetables and legumes between 1975 and 2016.

Pauline Scheelbeek of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is the lead author of the report. “Our study shows that environmental changes such as increased temperature and water scarcity may pose a real threat to global agricultural production,” she explained, “with likely impacts on food security and population health.”

The report finds that the global availability, affordability and consumption of these vegetables and legumes – which are staples in most plant-based diets – in the mid to long term is at risk. “Our results stress the importance of prioritizing agricultural developments, to minimize potential reductions in vegetable and legume yields and associated negative health effects,” the report says.

Where will this have the biggest impact?

According to the report, large parts of Africa and South Asia may be affected, as well as Southern Europe will be most heavily affected by this decrease. Alan Dangour is a senior author of the report and also a member of LSHTM. He indicates that environmental changes will substantially reduce the global availability of these important foods, and that a “business as usual” approach will not work.

“Urgent action needs to be taken, including working to support the agriculture sector to increase its resilience to environmental changes and this must be a priority for governments across the world,” he said. In order to protect vegetable supplies, improvements in agriculture and mechanization as well as new crop varieties are urgently needed.

“This research is a wake-up call, underlining the urgency of tackling climate change and of improving agricultural practices,” said Dr Howie Frumkin, the head of the our Planet, Our Health program. The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust, of which the program is part. Click here to access the report.

Want to know more about how vegetables impact our lives?

In addition, the findings of this report is made more serious by recent studies showing the plethora of health benefits associated with a plant-based diet. Click here to find out how it can not only increase your longevity and lower your chances for contracting lifestyle diseases, but also improve your skin.