North American Diets Require More Land Than We Have

Although the dietary guidelines are viewed as an improvement on the current land-intensive diet of the average American, the researchers say that dietary guidelines should be further developed using not just health, but also global land use and equity as criteria. (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Although the dietary guidelines are viewed as an improvement on the current land-intensive diet of the average American, the researchers say that dietary guidelines should be further developed using not just health, but also global land use and equity as criteria. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

If the global population adopted recommended North American dietary guidelines, there wouldn’t be enough land to provide the food required, according to a new study co-authored by University of Guelph researchers.

The researchers found that global adherence to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines would require one giga-hectare of additional land — roughly the size of Canada — under current farming practice. Their findings are published in PLOS ONE. Prof. Madhur Anand, director of the Global Ecological Change and Sustainability lab where the study was undertaken, said:

Although the dietary guidelines are viewed as an improvement on the current land-intensive diet of the average American, the researchers say that dietary guidelines should be further developed using not just health, but also global land use and equity as criteria. Anand, a professor in U of G’s School of Environmental Sciences (SES), said:

The authors found a strong east-west division worldwide. Most Western Hemisphere countries would use less land by adopting a USDA guideline diet, while most Eastern Hemisphere countries would use more land.

Co-authors of the paper are U of G Prof. Evan Fraser, holder of a Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security; SES graduate student Sarah Rizvi; Chris Pagnutti, an NSERC post-doctoral researcher in SES; and Prof. Chris Bauch, Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo. Anand added:

The authors call for international coordination of national dietary guidelines because global lands are a limited resource, with Anand saying:

Fraser, scientific director of the Food from Thought project and director of the Arrell Food Institute at U of G, added:

This research was supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant and is associated with the University of Guelph’s Food from Thought project, supported by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. The project is intended to increase the sustainability and productivity of global food production through leading-edge data science, agri-food research, and biodiversity science.

Provided by: Lori Bona Hunt, University of Guelph [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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