To achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to food security and biodiversity, understanding their interrelationships is essential. By examining datasets comprising 189 food items across 157 countries during 2000–2018, we found that high-income countries exported more food to low-income countries than they imported. Many low-income countries, especially those with biodiversity hotspots, increasingly acted as net importers, suggesting that imports from high-income countries can benefit biodiversity in low-income countries. Because low-income countries without hotspots have rapidly raised their amounts of food exports to hotspot countries, such exports might help further reduce negative impacts on biodiversity. The increasing complexity of food trade among countries with and without biodiversity hotspots requires innovative approaches to minimize the negative impacts of global food production and trade on biodiversity in countries worldwide.
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The codes to perform our panel data analyses can be found at https://github.com/mingonchung/foodtrade-hotspot.
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We thank S. Nichols for helpful comments on earlier drafts, as well as the organizations that provided the data for this study. Funding was provided by the US National Science Foundation (grant no. 1924111, J.L.), Michigan AgBioResearch (J.L.) and the Sustainable Michigan Endowment Project (M.G.C.).
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Extended Data Fig. 2 Average annual food flows (Mt/year) from 2000 to 2018. Food flows between high-hotspot countries (HHC), low-hotspot countries (LHC), and non-hotspot countries (NHC) with high- and low-income.
Non-hotspot countries are marked by red, high-hotspot countries by dark green, and low-hotspot countries by light green. The arc length of an outer circle indicates the sum of food exported and imported in each group. The arc length of a middle circle refers to the quantity of food exports. The inner arc length shows the quantity of food imports. Raw data from UN FAO52.
Extended Data Fig. 3 Spatial distribution of per capita crop production (kg/capita) and per capita harvested areas (m2/capita) in 2010.
(a) county-level of crop production, (b) hotspot-level of crop production, (c) county-level of harvested area, and (d) hotspot-level of harvested area.
Extended Data Fig. 5 Quantity of net food trade between high-hotspot countries (HHC), low-hotspot countries (LHC), and non-hotspot countries (NHC) with high and low income.
The group of high-, low-, and non-hotspot countries were classified with the proportion of biodiversity hotspots in harvested areas: (a) Blue indicates net food trade (export–import) in 2000, red indicates net food trade in 2018, and cyan indicates average net annual food trade from 2000–2018. The net amounts of food trade in each group are not linearly increased or decreased over time. The net amounts of food trade in 2000 and 2018 can be lower or higher than those in other mid-years. (b) The amounts of net food trade between high-income and low-income countries in high-hotspot countries (HHC), low-hotspot countries (LHC), and non-hotspot countries (NHC) from 2000–2018. Non-hotspot countries are indicated by red, high-hotspot countries by dark green, and low-hotspot countries by light green.
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Chung, M.G., Liu, J. International food trade benefits biodiversity and food security in low-income countries. Nat Food 3, 349–355 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-022-00499-7
Nature Food (2022)