Image Source: Reuters/Stephane Mahe
First detected at an Indiana turkey farm in February, the H5N1 strain of bird flu has since spread to 29 states, infecting millions of chickens and turkeys. It is the second-worst outbreak of avian flu in US history, forcing "free-range" egg producers to keep their birds indoors for months. Similar farm safety measures are in place in Europe, where more than 16 million birds have been culled. The virus's main vector is migratory waterfowl, and risk to humans remains low.
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According to the latest climate science, "substantive" agricultural production losses are projected for most European areas over the next 80 years. More than a third of southern Europe’s population will be exposed to water scarcity. North America faces similar risks. Recently, the US government halted water deliveries to California’s Central Valley—which produces roughly a quarter of America's food—due to extreme water shortages. The report adds that millions of people are already suffering from acute water and food insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Artic, and on small island nations. The bright spot: higher elevations in northern Europe and North America will see a climate change boon as warming temperatures make it easier to grow crops.
Image Source: NRCS Alaska/Flickr
In 2019, temps in Anchorage Alaska reached 90ºF for the first time on record. While global warming has fanned wildfires and destroyed crops in some US states, it may eventually increase Alaska's agricultural revenue. Climate modeling from the International Arctic Research Center suggests that the state's frost-free seasons will soon increase by several weeks, allowing farmers to grow significantly more cucumbers, sweet corn, tomatoes and other warm-weather crops.
Image Source: Dale Strickler
Midwestern corn belt states produce 75% of US corn. In a long-term study, scientists found that this region has lost 35% of fertile topsoil since European colonization. They estimate that the 6% annual reduction in crop yields has resulted in economic losses of $2.8 billion a year. Due mostly to erosion, this soil loss has also resulted in increased water pollution, dust pollution, and carbon in the atmosphere. The study authors say that improved technology and farm practices may help reverse this long-term trend.
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Five years ago, US legislators attempted to halt the spread of superbugs and improve animal welfare by restricting unnecessary antibiotic use in livestock. Their efforts failed, according to the FDA. In 2019, the year the FDA's analysis stopped, animals accounted for an astonishing 65.3% of all antibiotics sold (more than those used on humans), a net increase since restrictive legislation was introduced. The FDA needs to step up enforcement or our human antibiotics may become less and less ineffective.