American farmers and ranchers have been challenged in recent years to meet the food needs of a rapidly growing population. There will be 9 billion humans on Earth by 2050, and many estimates say we’ll need to double food production by then.

Those past claims and challenges, however, were mostly estimates. Now, the Economist Intelligence Unit has developed an annual Global Food Security Index that examines food security across the globe. The index, a first-of-its-kind ranking tool to comprehensively measure food security and monitor the ongoing impact of agriculture investments, collaborations and policies around the world, is commissioned by DuPont.

The average 2013 Global Food Index Score held flat at 53.5, compared to the 53.6 measured in 2012. However, while the score was nearly identical to the previous year, researchers found that food security has improved in some developing nations.

“Addressing food security is fruitless without measurement tools and global benchmarks, together with a continued commitment, but most important: Action,” said DuPont Pioneer President Paul E. Schickler. “Since we commissioned the first Global Food Security Index last year, governments, NGOs and academics have used the index as a roadmap to identify critical foodsecurity issues and make better informed decisions, develop collaborative partnerships and create effective local policies to address country- specific needs.”

The 2013 index expands on the 25 previously indentified food-security indicators to determine how two new factors — political corruption and urbanization — affect access to safe, nutritious and affordable food. Some key findings include:

• Nutrition is key in Chile and beyond: The 2013 Global Food Security Index shines a spotlight on nutrition: More than 3 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition each year. In Latin America, these issues are especially acute since only 53 percent of countries in the region have official policies regarding nutrition in place in primary schools. “Access to safe, nutritious and affordable food is critical to health and overall development,” said Schickler, while speaking alongside NGO and government partners at a nutrition and agriculture roundtable event in Santiago, Chile. Thanks to decades of strong economic management and political stability, Chile leads Latin America in terms of food availability and affordability and ranks second only to Argentina for its food quality and safety.

• Developing nations make progress as industrialized countries face setbacks: Sub-Saharan African nations including Ethiopia, Senegal and Botswana made significant progress this past year, rising an average of nine places in the index, with improvements attributed to rising incomes, greater access to farmer financing along with heightened emphasis on quality food and nutrition. The growth in developing nations contrasts a fall in developed European economies, in particular Greece, as it regressed as a result of fallout from fi nancial collapse and lower gross domestic product.

• Broader food-security metrics: Rather than measure food security in black and white terms, the 2013 index tracks 27 diverse factors that may explicitly or implicitly affect access to safe, nutritious and affordable food. New this year, the index points to political conflicts in Mali, Yemen and Syria as significant contributors to food insecurity in the regions. With regard to urbanization, emerging markets appear best positioned to respond to the long-term trend and implications for food security: Sierra Leone was the top-ranked country in this new indicator, primarily as a result of its strong urban farming, which has been crucial in supporting the country’s nutritional needs.

Governments around the world recognize food security as critical to their national security. American farmers and ranchers will play a critical role in helping feed the world and helping governments ensure their national security.