Sunday, November 25, 2007

Feeling the Heat

Meat, poultry, vegetables feel heat from global warming
HYDERABAD, India (AFP) - From meat, poultry and milk to potatoes, onions and leafy greens, everything consumed on the world's dining tables is feeling the heat from climate change, scientists said.

Researchers are trying to establish the extent to which global warming will affect livestock, plant life and staple crops such as rice to bolster their resistance to disease and breed stronger varieties.

The world's billion poor, whether producers or consumers, will bear the brunt, warned scientists who ended a conference Saturday on agriculture and climate change in Hyderabad, southern India.

"In some ways, the time for doing things is already past," said John McDermott, deputy director of research at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute. "The changes are already happening."

As an example, rift valley fever, a deadly virus transmitted to sheep, cattle, camels and humans by mosquito bites, is being fuelled by climate change, the scientist said.

The virus is manifesting itself in broader swathes of East Africa and the Middle East because of climate variability in dry regions that helps vectors such as mosquitoes, tsetse flies and ticks to breed and spread, he said.

"What you see are diseases moving into areas where they have not been before, which means sometimes animals are exposed where they haven't been for a long time," he said.

"That leads to more outbreaks," McDermott added.

For the poor, livestock offers a livelihood as well as a savings bank they can tap, selling off their cows or chickens to deal with a health or family emergency.

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