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The World Might Not Have Enough Fruit and Veggies to Go Around: Study

Why Global Citizens Should Care
One in nine people in the world is malnourished and the UN is working to end world hunger by 2030 as part of the Global Goals. In a new study, researchers at the University of Guelph found global agriculture needs to produce more fruits and vegetables for people to follow Harvard Healthy Eating Plate’s guide to nutrition. You can join us in taking action on this issue here

If the world’s population is going to follow a healthy diet, farmers need to start producing way more fruits and veggies, HuffPost reports

A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on Tuesday found food production isn’t keeping up with global nutritional needs. The research, conducted by the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, revealed the world is producing one-third of the amount of produce nutritionists suggest everyone should eat. Meanwhile, grains, sugar, and fats are heavily overproduced. 

Even with all that excess, over 821 million people were malnourished in 2017, according to the UN. 

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Researchers compared the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate (HHEP), an internationally recognized nutritional model, to the United Nations’ 2011 agriculture production report. The HHEP suggests people consume 50% of their calories through fruits and vegetables, 25% through whole grains, and 25% through protein, fat, and dairy. The study acknowledged that there’s endless debate over the exact breakdown of how much of each food group a person should consume, and noted the Canadian Food Guide suggests people consume 27% less produce than the HHEP.

For every person in the world to meet HHEP’s standards, global agriculture would have to churn out 15 servings of fruits and vegetables a day — right now it’s only producing five. Protein production is also not quite up to standard. HHEP recommends people eat three servings a day, but only five are being produced. 

Meanwhile, there’s an overabundance of the foods we shouldn’t be eating as much of. Agriculture should produce one serving of oil and dairy, zero sugar servings, and eight whole grain servings per person per day. Instead, there’s three servings of oil and fat, four of sugar, one of milk, and 12 of grains a day being made. 

In countries with overwhelming populations of people living in poverty, growing grains is just cheaper, and filling, according to University of Guelph professor Evan Fraser who co-wrote the study. 

Read More: In India, Eating More Fruits and Vegetables Could Help Save Water

Fraser told HuffPost diabetes, obesity, and other diet-induced illnesses can be traced back directly to the agriculture production dilemma. These health conditions will only become more common as the population grows, the professor warned. 

Growing more fruits and vegetables all at once isn’t the answer because that doesn’t solve the greenhouse gas emission problem, which causes climate change, directly harms major crops, and perpetuates world hunger

In line with a June study that claimed veganism is the best way to protect the earth, the team of researchers suggest farmers grow more fruits and vegetables and cut down on livestock production to limit agriculture’s effect on the environment.

"If we want to move forward to feed the future ... and we want to be healthier and we don't want to increase the amount of land that agriculture uses, we both have to shift to a Harvard Healthy Eating Plate model and we have to shift our protein consumption away from livestock-based to plant-based," he said.