Food waste harms environment, biodiversity – FAO

José Graziano da Silva - FAO Director-General
José Graziano da Silva – FAO Director-General

A new Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report says a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted annually.

It said wastage is not only causing major economic losses but also wreaking the natural resources that humanity relies upon to feed itself.

The report dubbed: “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources”, is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.

Among its key findings: Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere.

And beyond its environmental impact, the direct economic consequences to producers of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually, FAO’s report estimates.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva speaking at the launch on Thursday in Rome said: “All of us – farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers – must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can’t”.

“We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” he added.

As a companion to its new study, FAO has also published a comprehensive “tool-kit” that contains recommendations on how food loss and waste could be reduced at every stage of the food chain.

The tool-kit profiles a number of projects around the world that show how national and local governments, farmers, businesses, and individual consumers can take steps to tackle the problem.

Achim Steiner, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director said: “UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss – food wastage – as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy”.

Fifty-four per cent of the world’s food wastage occurs “upstream” during production, post-harvest handling and storage, according to FAO’s study. Forty-six per cent of it happens “downstream,” at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

It said as a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle-and high-income regions – where it accounts for 31-39 per cent of total wastage – than in low-income regions (4-16 per cent).

The later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, FAO’s report notes, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs.

Funding for the Food Wastage Footprint report and toolkit was provided by the government of Germany.

Source: GNA

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