Food supplies are being threatened not only by population growth but by the demand for animal protein inspired by rising affluence. This demand is now a major claimant on scarce supplies of both grains and feed-stock proteins. The latter are on the whole exported from poor to rich countries, where they are converted into animal protein providing one tenth to one fifth of the food protein value at a higher price.
The gap between supplies of animal protein and the effective demand in developing countries was an estimated 3.6 million tons in 1984. Even when the supply of protein foods in a particular region appears to be satisfactory (20% above the average national requirements, for example), it is unevenly distributed and certain vulnerable groups go short.
The world supply of food proteins amounts to approximately 79.5 million tons a year, 70% of which is consumed by people in the developed countries, representing only a third of the world's population. The world needs good-quality food protein urgently, and the need will intensify with the continued increase in world population. Already the protein gap (the shortfall in protein production) is estimated at almost 2.5 million tons of animal protein annually. By the year 2000, it is estimated that even 60 million tons of animal protein will be insufficient for the population of over 6,400 million.
In a headlong drive to solve the problem of protein deficiency, resources which should be directed at the problem of simple starvation are being squandered. Revised estimates of the necessary dietary intake of protein are progressively lowering the amount required and reducing the protein gap by some 10 million tons of protein per year.