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Resilience and reactivity of global food security: World population-food supply balance is becoming increasingly unstable

This study, which assesses the food supply available to more than 140 nations with populations greater than 1 million, shows that the globalization of trade is creating instability in the food distribution system.  As the world population increases, placing increasing pressure on use of limited land and water resources, food demand has grown and globalisation 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 which therefore rely strongly on imports. The past few decades have seen an intensification of international food trade and the increase in the number of countries that depend on food imports.

The researchers behind this study develop a framework to investigate the coupled global food–population dynamics, and evaluate the effect of international trade on global food security. They find that, as the dependency on trade increases, the global food system is losing resilience and is becoming increasingly unstable and susceptible to conditions of crisis.


The escalating food demand by a growing and increasingly affluent global population is placing unprecedented pressure on the limited land and water resources of the planet, underpinning concerns over global food security and its sensitivity to shocks arising from environmental fluctuations, trade policies, and market volatility. Here, we use country-specific demographic records along with food production and trade data for the past 25 y to evaluate the stability and reactivity of the relationship between population dynamics and food availability. We develop a framework for the assessment of the resilience and the reactivity of the coupled population–food system and suggest that over the past two decades both its sensitivity to external perturbations and susceptibility to instability have increased.


Suweis, S., Carr, J. A., Maritan, A., Rinaldo, A.,  D’Odorico, P., Resilience and reactivity of global food security.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201507366 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1507366112

Read the full paper here and see coverage from Science daily here.

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