The increasing global demand for natural rubber (100% increase in the last 15 years) is for most part met by Malaysia and Indonesia, and - to a lesser extent - other countries in South-East Asia and Africa. The consequent expansion of rubber plantation has often occurred at the expenses of agricultural land for staple crops, particularly in South-East Asia, where 90% of the land suitable for agriculture is already under cultivation. Here we investigate the extent to which the ongoing increase in rubber production is competing with the food system and affecting the livelihoods of rural communities living in the production areas and their appropriation of natural resources, such as water. We also investigate to what extent the expansion of rubber plantations is taking place through large scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) and evaluate the impacts on rural communities. Our results show how rubber production needs more than 10 million ha of fertile land and up to 136-149 × 10⁹ m³ y⁻¹ of freshwater (125 × 10⁹ m³ y⁻¹ of green water and 11-24 × 10⁹ m³ y⁻¹ of blue water). These resources would be sufficient to produce enough food to significantly reduce malnourishment in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam if replaced by rice production. Overall, natural rubber production has important environmental, social, and economic impacts. Indeed, despite their ability to bring employment and increase the average income of economically disadvantaged areas, rubber plantations may threaten the local water and food security and induce a loss of rural livelihoods - particularly when the new plantations result from LSLAs that displace semi-subsistence forms of production - thereby forcing the local populations to depend on global food markets.