Food waste ‘one of the great paradoxes of our times’

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food waste ‘one of the great paradoxes of our times’

Related tags: Food waste, Food and agriculture organization

The 1.3bn tonnes of food wasted throughout the supply chain each year could feed as many as two billion people without any additional impact on the environment, the Food and Agriculture Organisation has said.

At a seminar held in Rome to mark World Food Day yesterday, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino said that while some 840 million people went hungry, food waste was “one of the great paradoxes of our times”​, adding that wasting resources to produce food that was not consumed was unacceptable.

FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva called on everyone to update their understanding of global malnutrition, and to acknowledge that everyone plays a part.

He said that the notion that food lost or wasted could feed two billion people highlighted the size of the challenge as well as the opportunity.

"The economic costs of hunger are striking. They can amount to as much as 5% of global income through lost productivity and direct health care costs,"​ he said. "The flip side is the huge economic benefits that could result from ending hunger and malnutrition.

 “We still have many issues to tackle to make our food systems sustainable. But, for the first time in history, we have the means we need to overcome them.

“…World Food Day offers us an opportunity to adopt critical tools and solutions that will move us towards a well-nourished, hunger-free world.

“This year, we call upon everyone to update and broaden their understanding of the hunger problem, to view hunger and malnutrition as the tragic outcome of unhealthy food systems, food systems in which we all play a part.”

Also speaking at the event, Italian Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policy Nunzia De Girolamo called for a cultural change in the way food waste is viewed.

"Reducing food waste is not in fact only a strategy for times of crisis but a way of life we should adopt if we want a sustainable future for our planet,"​ she said.

Related topics: Market Trends, Sustainability

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3 comments

Food waste can be good for the hungry

Posted by Nick,

I can imagine cases when food waste is beneficial to fighting hunger. Consider the waste of tropical fruit imported in the high income countries from poor tropical ones with a hunger problem. Reducing waste in the importing countries means less exports from the poor countries and hence less income for the producers and workers there.

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Leading with the right metrics

Posted by Reginald Clause,

The scope of the waste is one way to understand how much doesn't make it to table but the number itself is highly speculative. Looking at that huge number may mislead us away from the systemic innovations needed. It also lets us forget that said innovations will be made locally and regionally such that improvement can only be incremental. Thus we need to think in appropriate increments. We do know it is a lot but there is a huge amount of the overall number lost within the consumers' homes. Little will be done to change that. Then there are realities within what is a biological system that will force some level of loss no matter how the supply chains are optimized. The discussion needs to start with the measurable amount that is available for capture or prevention. And the ultimate use of that capture can be energy and soil amendment production which is an obvious opportunity. Of course eliminating the waste at the beginning through planning and optimization is the goal, but we need to understand that there will be some flex in the system at all times and that reality is one contributor to what is called waste. If that flex or surge aspect of the food supply chains is completely removed, the risk of catastrophic events in at risk areas will rise.
Dieter's comments on decentralized food production make a great deal of sense in this discussion. Our drive for centralized efficiency models in production and distribution have resulted in gross inequities and inefficiencies evidently not foreseen.

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how to use non-wasted food?

Posted by Dieter E,

The food not wasted cannot serve tgo feed the hungry world! This would be a challengin transport problem. Also, producing less food apt to be wasted would preserve resources in adv anced countries, but again not help hungry world. It is not the waste but the overproduction of food which is then sold to the hungry worls which contributes to destroy the traditional, local econimics. Instead, local, decentralized food production must be establlished and expanded where the food is needed.

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