A November study, Trading more food: implications for land use, greenhouse gas emissions and the food system, compiled by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK), used computer simulations to analyse economic and environmental impacts of increased world trade for the years 2005 to 2045.
Christoph Schmitz, lead author of the study, told FoodNavigator-Asia that the biggest impact for Asian countries will be deforestation, specifically in the Philippines and Indonesia.
He said: “Further trade liberalisation effort should not be done without considering forest protection measures.”
“Furthermore, higher public and private investments in agricultural innovation are necessary in order to meet future demand and environmental targets,” he continued.
Schmitz said that investments in research and development for improving yields will be crucial to Asia Pacific countries if they are to meet global demand while minimising environmental damage.
Hermann Lotze-Campen, agricultural economist at PIK, said: “If more can be produced on the same piece of land, this helps both ends: global food security as well as climate protection.”
The computer mapping research looked at different levels of global trade, including full trade liberalisation by 2045.
It found that if world trade was freed from all trade barriers by 2045, global agricultural production could become US$11 trillion cheaper altogether, reducing costs by almost a tenth.
At the same time however, emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases would increase by approximately 15%.
Food prices would also be reduced in the long-term, Schmitz said, as regions with comparative advantages in certain food areas, like cereal or oil, would export more.
The lower cost of agricultural raw produce is an obvious attraction to manufacturers, Lotze-Campen noted.
But he said that the economic advantages of opening up global trade are a trade-off with the negative environmental consequences.
Lotze-Campen said that there should be a future in pricing emissions, as it will incentivise companies to take measures towards climate protection.
There needs to be a focus on the environment through all levels of production, he said, and “nowadays, there are quite powerful communication streams through the chain and there is a potential to put pressure on agricultural producers to care about environmental concerns.”
He said that without regulation, producers will undoubtedly use more land to make profits.
“It all calls for a global agreement to curb emissions… Liberalisation can be of sustainable advantage to global food supplies if rules to contain agricultural impacts on the environment are created on an international level,” he said.