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Global Food Waste A ‘Tragedy’

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Nearly half of the food produced in the world goes to waste. Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by gmtbillings on Flickr.

Nearly half of the food produced in the world goes to waste. Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by gmtbillings on Flickr.

As much as 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes of the total food produced in the world is being wasted. This is the key finding of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers‘ report Global Food – Waste Not, Want Not. This huge amount is equivalent to nearly half the entire food production of the world finding its way to trash bins instead of human stomachs.

A wide range of social, environmental, political, and economic issues will need to be addressed with a sustainable future increasingly in mind, says the report. This is in view of the United Nations  mid range projection of the global population growth peaking at 9.5 billion people by 2075. An additional three billion people by the last quarter of the century needing to be fed means an urgent need to find a way to either maximize food production or, the authors argue as the better option, minimize losses in food waste around the world.

The authors of the report call the level of food wastage occurring today as a tragedy. According to research, the world produces around 4 billion metric tons of food every year to feed the current human population. But an estimated 30% to 50% never reach a human stomach. This great amount of loss is attributed to different factors. Poor practices in harvesting, food produce storage, and transportation cut the total amount of food that  reach stores and markets. What does get there is further compromised by market and consumer food wasting practices.

The former factors that contribute to significant food wastage are more common to developing nations. The report’s authors found that in less-developed countries, food wastage takes place primarily at the farmer-producer end of the food supply chain. Inefficiencies in harvesting waste food produce that would otherwise be good food items. Inadequate local transportation also damages good produce, leaving them to be rejected by picky potential buyers when it arrives at its destination. Poor infrastructure also contributes to food waste as produce are handled inappropriately and stored in unsuitable conditions.

For developed nations with better facilities and technologies, a bigger amount of food reaches stores and markets for its consumers than in its developing nations counterparts. On the other hand, developed nations lose significant amounts of food through retail and consumer behavior, the report says.

Most major supermarkets value aesthetic characteristics when sourcing fresh produce to please consumers. However an important downside to this approach is the rejection of perfectly edible fruits and vegetables with less than perfect appearances. In the UK alone, 30% of its vegetable crop are left unharvested for faulty physical characteristics. Worldwide, retailers reject about 1.6 million tonnes of food every year through non-sustainable practices like those mentioned above.

What survives inefficient farm practices and aesthetics-overconscious retailers is still prone to wastage through consumers themselves. Those who purchase excessive quantities of food (thanks to various sales promotions) tend to generate waste by throwing away extra food they don’t need anymore. The report says that between 30% to 50% of food bought in developed nations are thrown away by consumers, adding to the waste already generated by farms and markets.

The amount of global food waste costs more than the food themselves and the nutrition they could have supplied many people. Food waste also costs a lot of resources – land, water, fertilizers, energy – that in the end come to nothing as food products are thrown away.

For the report’s authors as well as countless people in the world who succumb to starvation when so much is simply being thrown away, global food waste is a tragedy that cannot continue.

Estel M.
About Estel M. (348 Posts)

Estel Grace Masangkay is a freelance creative writer who enjoys outdoor trips and activities in natural settings. She is passionate about animal welfare and environment conservation. Follow Me @Em23me.


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