Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits Energyrefuge.com, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and Elpis.org, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade....
New UN Campaign Tackles Food Waste
The world wastes a great deal of food - 1.3 billion tons per year, to be precise. - The problem has become so big that it has prompted the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to launch a campaign to get consumers and food retailers to cut the waste. The initiative is supported by several ongoing campaigns such as Feeding the 5000 and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), besides other partners, including national governments, who have considerable experience targeting and changing wasteful practices.
Worldwide, about one-third of all food produced, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in inefficient food production and consumption systems, according to data released by FAO. Food loss occurs mostly at the production stages - harvesting, processing and distribution - while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain.
However, in the developed world the end of the chain is far more significant. At the food manufacturing and retail level in the developed world, large quantities of food are wasted due to inefficient practices, quality standards that over-emphasize appearance, confusion over date labels, consumers being quick to throw away edible food due to over-buying, inappropriate storage, and preparing meals that are too large. Per-capita waste by consumers is between 95 and 115 kg a year in Europe and North America/Oceania, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia each throw away only 6 to 11 kg a year.
"In a world of seven billion people, set to grow to nine billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense - economically, environmentally and ethically," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Part of the trigger for the campaign was the outcome of the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012, in which Heads of State and governments gave the go-ahead for a 10-Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Patterns. Developing an SCP program for the food sector must be a vital element of this framework, given the need to sustain the world's food production base, reduce associated environmental impacts, and feed a growing human population.
All this waste has serious environmental implications since agriculture is resource-intensive and drives deforestation. On more than 20 per cent of all cultivated land, 30 per cent of forests and 10 per cent of grasslands are undergoing degradation while agriculture and land use changes like deforestation contribute to more than 30 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. 70 percent of freshwater resources go to agriculture, which also requires a great amount of energy, or nearly 30 per cent of end-user available energy. Finally, we have been fishing our oceans empty. Overfishing and poor management have contributed to declining numbers of fish while 30 per cent of marine fish stocks are now considered overexploited.
If you are a retailer or a consumer, visit the Think.Eat.Save website for tips on how to reduce your contribution to this global problem.
Image credit: Think.Eat.Save