Copyright ©2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, researchers in Europe have been trying to answer a pretty big question: How much food is there in the world? They've tracked the availability of food for the past 50 years. The good news is there seems to be more of it in countries that used to have little.

But as NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, those countries aren't necessarily growing it themselves.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: In 1965, there were lots of places that didn't have enough food for their citizens. This was especially true in parts of the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, China and Southeast Asia.

In fact, in 1965 only one-third of the world's population had what the researchers deemed a sufficient food supply - 2,500 or more calories per person a day.

Now that percentage of sufficiently fed people is just over 60 percent.

But many of these countries where supply has improved did not make up the food deficit themselves by growing it. Instead, they imported it from abroad. Cross-border trade in food has skyrocketed in the past 50 years. The major exporters have been the U.S., Canada, Australia and Argentina. Brazil, once a place with its own food deficit, is also a major producer of food grown just for export.

Along with the rise in food trade and consumption, people are eating more animal-based food as well. The supply of calories from animal-based nutrition has increased 2.6 times.

Writing in the journal PLOS, the researchers note that the increase in high-calorie diets has also increased people's weight. Recent research shows more obesity in places like China and Pacific Island nations.

Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.