Is global food production meeting the world's nutritional needs?

November 3, 2018

Food collage

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there is currently enough food to satisfy the caloric intake of everyone on the planet. What has not been carefully explored until recently however, is whether global food production can meet the world’s nutritional requirements now and into the future when the global population is projected to be 9.8 billion by 2050. 

KC et al. (2018) explore this question by delving into global agricultural production statistics and comparing these against the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate as a benchmark for a nutritionally balanced diet. They found that grains, fats, and sugars are currently overproduced while fruits, vegetables, and to a lesser extent, proteins, are underproduced to meet the world’s nutritional requirements.

According to the authors, transitioning to more nutritious food production needs to limit greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impacts associated with agriculture in order to protect biodiversity and support ecosystem services. A possible scenario they propose to meet this global challenge involves growing more fruits and vegetables, which would save arable land, and switching to more plant-based protein, which would simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use of pasture land.



KC KB, Dias GM, Veeramani A, Swanton CJ, Fraser D, Steinke D, Lee E, Wittman H, Farber JM, Dunfield K, McCann K, Anand M, Campbell M, Rooney N, Raine NE, Van Acker R, Hanner R, Pascoal S, Sharif S, Benton TG, Fraser EDG. 2018. When too much isn’t enough: Does current food production meet global nutritional needs? PLoS ONE 13(10): e0205683. pone.0205683

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Commentary by Krishna Badahur KC and Evan DG Fraser: