I follow statistics on global food trade closely, but was still shocked by some of the findings in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) assessment of whether, and to what degree, U.S. agriculture “feeds the world” as is so often claimed. A few key findings from this report:
- 86% of all US exports in 2015 went to affluent countries like China, Canada, Japan and the EU where most people aren’t going hungry;
- The world’s undernourished countries mostly feed themselves, the 19 nations with the highest hunger rates import only 25% of their food supply, and less than 1% US ag exports make it to these most needy places in the world;
- The majority of what we send to other countries is animal feed, which makes up 31% of total US agriculture exports, and most of this is going to wealthy countries;
I recall a few years ago when the FAO issued a press release saying that, for the first time in history, the number of obese and overweight people on Earth exceeds the number of malnourished, food insecure people.
In recent years, U.S. exports of animal feeds, animal products, and processed foods have accelerated the trend toward unhealthy diets on a global basis. One could argue that the net impact of U.S. ag exports is actually approaching a negative, given what is exported and how it is changing dietary patterns.
We need to find a way to export more fruits and veggies, edible beans, nuts, and grass-fed dairy products, and less corn, soybeans, and distillers dried grain. Now that would be progress, and a contribution to global food security worth bragging about. In encourage you to check out the new report and the compelling infographic they have posted at the link below.
Source: Anne Weir Schechinger and Craig Cox, “Feeding the World: Think U.S. Agriculture Will End World Hunger? Think Again.,” October 2016, EWG.