The race for land, water and perhaps a captive food market is on.

Or so says a new study published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A Science Daily report calls the new research “the first global quantitative assessment of the water-grabbing phenomenon,” the process of some nations and many large corporations buying up property and available water resources in less wealthy and often under-developed countries.

The study suggests such land-grabbing may put a strain on land and water resources in countries where the strategy has been in practice for a number of years.

The study represents the joint work of researchers at the University of Virginia and the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy.

Researchers claim land-grabbing has been a common practice in recent years but has escalated at an alarming rate since 2009 in direct response to a rapid increase in world food prices, and they suggest if the practice continues unchecked or unregulated, it could lead to undesirable results for local communities in many under-developed nations.

According to the official study, societal pressure on the global land and freshwater resources is increasing as a result of the rising food demand by the growing human population, dietary changes, and the enhancement of biofuel production induced by rising oil prices and recent changes in United States and European Union bioethanol policies.

Many countries and corporations have started or are continuing a policy of acquiring relatively inexpensive and productive agricultural land located in foreign countries, as evidenced by the dramatic increase in the number of transnational land deals between 2005 and 2009.