Food Security and Sustainability

The amount of food lost or food waste amount to $2.6 trillion per year and is more than enough to feed the 815 million hungry people in the world.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), around 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year around the world, or one third of all food produced for human consumption.

The amount of food lost or food waste amount to $2.6 trillion per year and is more than enough to feed the 815 million hungry people in the world.

 

The history of food waste is closely linked to globalization. With an increasingly interconnected world comes longer supply chains that leave food lost or wasted at every stage of its farm-to-fork journey. In fact, “food loss” generally refers to food lost in the early stages of production, such as harvesting, storage, processing and transport. On the other hand, “food waste” refers to food products fit for human consumption but thrown away.

 

According to the FAO, both high-income and low-income countries throw away similar amounts of food (670 and 630 million tons respectively),  differing only in where and how food is lost.

The Environmental Impact of Food Waste

When edible items are discarded, it’s not just food that is wasted. All input resources like water for irrigation, land for planting, fuel for powering harvest and fuel for transport are also wasted, sometimes in vast amounts. Water is one of Earth’s most precious resources, and 70 percent of it is used for agricultural purposes, including crop irrigation and drinking water for livestock.

 

The production of just one apple requires an average of 125 litres of water, which means that throwing away a bruised apple is akin to pouring 125 litres of water down the drain.

The numbers with meat are even more staggering; 15,400 litres for just one kilogram of beef.

 

According to the FAO’s Food Wastage Footprint report, 250 km3 of water — three times the volume of Lake Geneva — is used each year to produce food that is ultimately lost or wasted.

Land is another of Earth’s valuable and limited commodities. Twenty-eight per cent of the world's agricultural area is used to produce food that is ultimately lost or wasted each year. Not only does that result in unnecessary degradation of land, clearing land for agricultural purposes is also a cause of deforestation, which eliminates wildlife habitats and wipes out trees that absorb greenhouse gases.

The FAO estimates the carbon footprint of food waste is 3.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year. Not only are oil, diesel and other polluting fuels used to power production machineries and transport vehicles, but greenhouse gases are also emitted by food waste itself.

 

Discarded waste rotting in landfills gives off methane, a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

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