Almost half of the world's food thrown away, report finds

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

And people still think that we need GMO's to produce food to feed the hungry

As much as half of all the food produced in the world – equivalent to two billion (2bn) tonnes – ends up as waste every year, a report published on January 10, 2013, warns.

The UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) blames the "staggering" new figures in its analysis on unnecessarily strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free and Western consumer demand for cosmetically perfect food, along with "poor engineering and agricultural practices", inadequate infrastructure and poor storage facilities.

In the face of United Nations predictions that there could be about an extra 3 billion people to feed by the end of the century and growing pressure on the resources needed to produce food, including land, water and energy, the IME is calling for urgent action to tackle this waste.

The IME's report, “Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not”, which can be downloaded here, found that between 30% and 50% or 1.2-2bn tonnes of food produced around the world never makes it on to a plate.

In the UK as much as 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested due to their failure to meet supermarket buyers' exacting standards on physical appearance, it says, while up to half of the food that is bought in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers.

Those buyers claim that consumers would not buy produce that is misshapen, has blemishes, or what-have-you. However, this all comes down to education and that is where government and NGOs come in also, and the supermarkets themselves.

And about 550bn cubic meters of water are wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer. Carnivorous diets add extra pressure as it takes 20-50 times the amount of water to produce 2lbs of meat than 2lbs of vegetables; the demand for water in food production could reach 10–13 trillion cubic meters a year by 2050.

This is 2.5 to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today and could lead to more dangerous water shortages around the world, the IME says, claiming that there is the potential to provide 60-100% more food by eliminating losses and waste while at the same time freeing up land, energy and water resources.

Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IME, said: "The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food."

In order to prevent further waste, governments, development agencies and organization like the UN "must work together to help change people's mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers," the IME said.

This report on waste also proves that there is absolutely no need whatsoever to play G-d by genetically modifying and -engineering crops and other foodstuffs. All we need to do is use all that which is available and create an infrastructure so that the food that is being harvested actually reaches the consumer.

Furthermore we must educate the consumer that misshapen fruit and vegetables taste as good, if not often better, than the “perfect” ones and that would eliminate then almost all possible waste.

Maybe, just maybe, we also need a new way of getting the produce from the farm to the consumer on a much more direct way and get people to buy and eat local and in season.

© 2013