Trade and the equitability of global food nutrient distribution


Access to sufficient, nutritious food is a basic human right and is necessary to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. We demonstrate that international food trade, in the current global system, is essential to nutrient access and enables some poorer countries to be able to nourish up to hundreds of millions of people. Protectionist trade policies could therefore have serious negative consequences for food security.

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Fig. 1: Potential gains in people nourished with trade.
Fig. 2: Change in number of people who could be nourished without trade.


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The authors would like to acknowledge M. Bradford, D. Kane, S. Kuebbing, E. Oldfield and C. Palm for helpful comments. S.A.W. was supported by a NatureNet Science Fellowship.

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R.S.D. and S.A.W. conceived the project; M.R.S., R.S.D. and S.A.W. designed the analysis; M.R.S. and S.A.W. analysed data; all authors interpreted data; S.A.W. wrote the first draft of the manuscript; all authors provided feedback on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Stephen A. Wood.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–3, Supplementary Tables 1–5

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Wood, S.A., Smith, M.R., Fanzo, J. et al. Trade and the equitability of global food nutrient distribution. Nat Sustain 1, 34–37 (2018).

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