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Globalisation of agrifood systems and sustainable nutrition

  • Matin Qaim (a1)

The globalisation of agrifood systems is a mega-trend with potentially profound nutritional implications. This paper describes various facets of this globalisation process and reviews studies on nutritional effects with a particular focus on developing countries. Results show that global trade and technological change in agriculture have substantially improved food security in recent decades, although intensified production systems have also contributed to environmental problems in some regions. New agricultural technologies and policies need to place more emphasis on promoting dietary diversity and reducing environmental externalities. Globalising agrifood systems also involve changing supply-chain structures, with a rapid rise of modern retailing, new food safety and food quality standards, and higher levels of vertical integration. Studies show that emerging high-value supply chains can contribute to income growth in the small farm sector and improved access to food for rural and urban populations. However, there is also evidence that the retail revolution in developing countries, with its growing role of supermarkets and processed foods, can contribute to overweight and obesity among consumers. The multi-faceted linkages between changing agrifood systems and nutrition are a new field of interdisciplinary research, combining agricultural, nutritional, economics and social sciences perspectives. The number of studies on specific aspects is still limited, so the evidence is not yet conclusive. A review at this early stage can help to better understand important relationships and encourage follow-up work.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Corresponding author: M. Qaim, email
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