Global land use implications of dietary trends | Land Portal

Resource information

Date of publication: 
December 2018
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ISBN / Resource ID: 

Global food security and agricultural land management represent two urgent and intimately related challenges that humans must face. The authors quantify the changes in the global agricultural land footprint if the world were to adhere to the dietary guidelines put forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), while accounting for the land use change incurred by import/export required to meet those guidelines. The authors analyze data at country, continental, and global levels. USDA guidelines are viewed as an improvement on the current land-intensive diet of the average American, but despite this their results show that global adherence to the guidelines would require 1 gigahectare of additional land - roughly the size of Canada - under current agricultural practice.

The results also show a strong divide between Eastern and Western hemispheres, with many Western hemisphere countries showing net land sparing under a USDA guideline diet, while many Eastern hemisphere countries show net land use increase under a USDA guideline diet. The authors conclude that national dietary guidelines should be developed using not just health but also global land use and equity as criteria. Because global lands are a limited resource, national dietary guidelines also need to be coordinated internationally, in much the same way greenhouse gas emissions are increasingly coordinated.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Rizvi, Sarah
Pagnutti, Chris
Fraser, Evan
Bauch, Chris T.
Anand, Madhur

Data provider

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.


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