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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Earth Day reminder: Island lacks food security public policy

By The Star Staff

At a time when many are coming together to commemorate Planet Earth Day internationally today, Dr. Ada Álvarez Conde, a well-known activist against gender violence and candidate for an at-large Senate seat for the Popular Democratic Party in the upcoming elections, on Sunday pointed to food insecurity and the neglect of the issue of climate change in Puerto Rico’s projects as a national emergency issue.

“We need a public policy that makes the environment a priority,” Álvarez Conde said. “It is imperative to review what we should have learned from Hurricane Maria, the earthquakes and a global pandemic. The reality is that when we think of security, we might think of criminality first, but there is something else that is pressing. Among many other environmental issues that need to be addressed, we have to go to a very basic one: we need to eat to live. It’s a matter of economics and survival. I have come to bring a series of proposals for Puerto Rico to support the environment, farmers and above all to avoid empty shelves in the future with food security.”

The rise in food prices is attributed to serious climate change problems around the world, including earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, prolonged droughts and severe flooding in countries with extensive agricultural practices. Economic losses from natural disasters amount to $380 billion, 22% more than the average. Both the United Nations and the World Bank have noted that global food prices will continue to rise over the years.

Puerto Rico is highly vulnerable to a food crisis, due to its high dependence on imports and low agricultural production.

Among the reasons that support an approach to policy that prioritizes food security, the candidate highlighted the following: First, Puerto Rico produces less than 15% of the food that is consumed locally. Second, the island depends on food imports from countries as far away as China (Puerto Rico’s second-largest food importer) Third, Puerto Rico has some 557,528 acres of underutilized agricultural land. Fourth, between 2002 and 2007, more than 100,000 acres of agricultural land were lost to urban sprawl. And fifth, but not least, while several nations have already designed action plans to address what is considered the worst global food crisis in 70 years, Puerto Rico lacks a public policy designed to do the same.

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