Panel 2 - Undernutrition and malnutrition in the world

Malnutrition is an imbalance - a deficiency or an excess - in a person's intake of nutrients and other dietary elements needed for healthy living. Malnutrition can manifest itself as hunger (or undernutrition), deficiency in vitamins or minerals, or overfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that fully half of the human family, some 3 billion people, suffer from malnutrition of one kind or another. One out of five people in the developing world suffer from the worst of the variants of malnutrition - hunger.

It is well known that most undernutrition among the poor arises from inequitable food access, rather than from inadequate food production. More than enough food is produced the world over to feed the entire human population, but too much of it is not consumed directly by needy humans but used as animal feed. Despite this, demand for meat and milk in developing countries has been increasing dramatically.

This panel examines the impact of consumption of animal food on malnutrition, with a special focus on undernutrition in the developing countries. Over the last decades, a number of private and public institutions have been actively promoting the spread of large-scale livestock and dairy production in developing countries; because animal products are among the least efficient food sources available, this policy, far from combating hunger, will only exacerbate the problem.