In a world where one third of the total amount of food produced is wasted or loss, at the start of the production and distribution of food (predominantly in developing countries) , as well as at the end of the supply chain , discarded by final consumers, even while food is still in good condition for human consumption (mostly in medium income and rich countries), it should be inconceivable the fact that around a billion people go starving to bed every night worldwide. The causes of this issues are many, but the consequences if we do not do anything to change these numbers will be even greater.
HOW FOOD WASTE RELATES TO CLIMATE CHANGE
One the consequences that arise great concern on food waste is how it might contribute to climate change. It is well-known that unsustainable agriculture is considered one of the major causes affecting climate change, having this in mind, it is clear that food waste can worsen this issue, as it is estimated that about 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (4.4 Gt CO2e) per year are generated annually due to global food loss and waste.
In this sense, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) made an interesting comparison among countries: Have you ever imagined how would it be if food lost and waste represented a country? The next graph exemplified that it would be the third largest emitting country, just behind China and USA.
Source: FAO, “Food wastage footprint & Climate Change“,WRI’s Climate Data Explorer(4).
All these emissions come from several different sources, such as wasted energy (as for electricity or transport) used to produce food; emissions from decaying food that is put in landfills; agricultural emissions coming from livestock; and indirectly emissions from land deforestation used for production purposes as well.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
Having the above in mind, now we need to reflect on what can be done about it. At a governmental level, food safety standards should be promoted, so that the production, transportation, packing and distribution of food becomes more efficient and effective. At a consumer level, it could be as simple as try to buy in the supermarket just the food we really need. In the same way, we should accept the food that in appearance might not seem perfect but is good enough to eat. Finally, when we go out for food, we should consider taking home the food we are not able to finish. In the long term, these little actions could lead to a great positive change.
Source: National Geographic, “How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change“, Photograph By Brian Finke.
At the international level, there are also some initiatives that are being promoted, such as the one called “SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction” boosted by the FAO, in which an attempt is made to highlight the relevance of changing unsustainable practices related to food waste, as well as pressing leaders and authorities to act on their commitments made in the Paris Agreement at COP21.
PANORAMA IN LATIN AMERICA
To contextualise in a more specific way what was mentioned above, I will narrow the focus on Latin America and the Caribbean region. In this sense, it is important to consider that even though Latin America is responsible for only the 6% of the food losses and waste globally, if the region reduces its lost food and waste as for retailing and supermarkets, more than half people who suffer hungry in this area could be fed.
Source: CIHEAM,“Food losses and Waste in the Mediterranean“,WRI analysis based on FAO. 2011. Global food losses and food waste—extent
In order to reduce loss and waste in the different regions, strategic alliances should be formed between the public and private sectors of Latin American countries. In this way, relevant initiatives can be viable and also met. Nations, such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Republic of Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile and Dominican Republic have invested in the development of food banks, saving thousand tons of food.
“Eradicating hunger in the region requires that all sectors of society to make efforts to reduce their losses and waste,” said Regional Representative of FAO
Other aim of the alliances between the public and private sector to combat against food losses is creating public awareness. This goal is one of the key factors that can contribute to reduce the overall waste globally, as each alliance gathers groups from all over the world, allowing to conduct awareness campaigns in the different regions of the world. An example of this, is the union between FAO, UNEP and the German company Messe Düsseldorf which gathered more than 250 members.
In conclusion, even though there are some initiatives put into action in many countries around the world, there is still a lot that needs to be done. In this case, one of the most important things is to realise that we do not have a lot of time to create effective initiatives with the potential to change the high rate of food waste, since this current rates will have negative repercussions on the future.
As Jose Cuesta highlight “the time for getting down to work has come, cause otherwise, future progress in agricultural production will mean very little to world food security if we continue losing and wasting much of the food we produce…”
In the end the benefits of achieving less food waste could be historical. We already produce the enough amount of food needed to feed all the starving population of the world and even the 2.5 billion people that are expecting to come in the next 35 years.
Therefore, we must be efficient at food production, since efficiency is not producing large quantities of food that not everyone can eat, but rather the exact amount for everyone to eat without having excesses. When achieving this goal of efficiency, automatically other problems related to food waste such as high green gas emissions, scarcity of water and many other issues will have a reciprocal improvement.