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.