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With tomatoes from Chile, salmon from Norway, chocolate from Africa, and coffee from Indonesia, a trip to the local grocery store can seem like a journey around the world. But food security is a serious issue in the 21st century, as countries around the world struggle to produce enough food to feed their growing populations. A new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany that was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters suggests that over half of the world’s population could depend on imported foods by 2050.

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Using climate data, soil type, and land use patterns, the researchers were able to calculate yields for major crops. Taking into account population statistics and food and water consumption for each nation, they calculated the amount of food each country could produce for itself. The study showed that many nations could not sustain their current diets and remain self sufficient. About 16 percent of the world’s population is already unable to supply enough food themselves domestically. The countries that currently rely most on other nations lie in North Africa, Central America, and the Middle East.

“Today, 66 countries are not able to be self-sufficient due to water and/or land constraints,” said Marianela Fader, lead author of the paper. “Future population growth will exacerbate this situation leading to up to 5.2 billion people dependent on external water and land resources, and thus, on international trade. Finally, up to 1.3 billion people may be exposed to longer-term food insecurity in 2050 in low-income economies (mainly in Africa), if their economic development will not allow them to afford productivity improvements, cropland expansion and/or imports from other countries,” states the paper.

The food sufficiency study did not take into account implications of climate change that could affect weather patterns and overall growing conditions. Shifts in cultivation could potentially make the problems even more severe, particularly for developing nations that may not have enough income to purchase all of the food they need to feed their people. Changes in diet, such as a shift towards more vegetarian meals and seasonal fare, could possibly help alleviate global pressures.

+ Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Via the Guardian

Image via Wikicommons user Karen.