Researchers report that as the world population increases and food demand has grown, globalization of trade has made the food supply more sensitive to environmental and market fluctuations. This leads to greater chances of food crises, particularly in nations where land and water resources are scarce and therefore food security strongly relies on imports.
The study assesses the food supply available to more than 140 nations (with populations greater than 1 million) and demonstrates that food security is becoming increasingly susceptible to perturbations in demographic growth, as humanity places increasing pressure on use of limited land and water resources.
“In the past few decades there has been an intensification of international food trade and an increase in the number of countries that depend on food imports,” said Paolo D’Odorico, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and one of the study’s authors. “On average, about one-fourth of the food we eat is available to us through international trade. This globalization of food may contribute to the spread of the effects of local shocks in food production throughout the world.”
D’Odorico’s paper is published this week in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Food security, D’Odorico said, is typically defined as the availability of and access to a sufficient amount of food to meet the requirements of human societies at all places and all times.