As the world population swells, the inequitable distribution of food around the globe is prompting profound moral questions. Is the unequal distribution of food in rich and poor countries, for instance, merely a consequence of geography, with rich countries having more fertile lands? Or are food shortages in some countries a function of socio-economics and inequalities in international food trade? And since the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to an adequate level of food, what can be done to ensure that food is distributed internationally in ways that mitigate world hunger and malnutrition?
In a study published Feb. 27 in the journal BioScience, a team of environmental scientists, including professor Paolo D'Odorico, seeks to answer these questions by analyzing the role of trade in distributing food internationally and to what extent this has benefited or hindered the human right to food.
The study, "Food Inequality, Injustice, and Rights," looks at international food trade and whether it enhances or erodes equitable access to food across the planet. The researchers analyzed annual United Nations data on international food trade from 1986 to 2010 in nearly 180 countries, and focused on 266 commodities such as rice, wheat, maize, and soybeans as well as animal products.
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