A recent study from Aalto University in Sweden shows that less than a third of the world population could currently satisfy their food demand with the produced in your local neighborhood.
Globalization has revolutionized food production and consumption In recent decades, cultivation has become more efficient, and as a result, the diets of many people have diversified and the availability of food has increased in various parts of the world. However, it has also led to a situation in which the majority of the world population lives in countries that depend, at least partially, on imported food. This can intensify vulnerabilities during any type of global crisis, like the current Covid-19 pandemic, as global food supply chains are disrupted.
The thesis researcher from Aalto University Pekka Kinnunen, he says: ‘There are great differences between the different areas and the local foliage. For example, in Europe and North America, temperate crops, such as wheat, can be obtained mainly within a radius of 500 kilometers. In comparison, the global average is about 3,800 kilometers. ‘
The study, published in ‘Nature Food’ and led by Kinnunen, modeled the minimum distance between crop production and consumption that humans around the world would need to satisfy their food demand. The study was conducted in collaboration with Columbia University, the University of California, the National University of Australia and the University of Göttningen.
The study included six groups of key human cultures: temperate cereals (wheat, barley, rye), rice, corn, tropical grains (millet, sorghum), tropical roots (cassava) and legumes. The researchers globally modeled the distances between production and the consumer, both for normal production conditions and for scenarios where production chains become more efficient due to reduced food waste and improved farming methods.
It was shown that 27% of the world population could obtain their temperate cereal grains within a radius of less than 100 kilometers. The proportion was 22% for tropical cereals, 28% for rice, and 27% for legumes. In the case of maize and tropical roots, the proportion was only 11-16%, which according to Kinnunen shows the difficulty of relying solely on local resources.
“We define food basins as areas within which food production could be self-sufficient. In addition to food production and demand, food fences describe the impact of transportation infrastructure on where food can be obtained,” Kinnunen explains in a statement.
The study also showed that food basins are mostly relatively compact areas for individual crops. When looking at crops as a whole, food sheds form larger areas, spanning the globe. This indicates that the diversity of our current diets creates global and complex dependencies.
According to associate professor Matti Kummu, who was also involved in the study, the results clearly show that local production alone cannot meet the demand for food; at least not with current production methods and consumption habits. Increasing the share of effectively managed national production would likely reduce both food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. However, at the same time, it could lead to new problems, such as water pollution and water scarcity in densely populated areas, as well as vulnerabilities during situations such as poor harvests or large-scale migration.
“The current Covid-19 epidemic emphasizes the importance of self-sufficiency and local food production. It would also be important to assess the risks that dependence on imported agricultural inputs, such as animal feed, fertilizers and energy, could cause,” says Kummu. .