Friday, January 11, 2013

We Throw Away Half Of Our Food

I think we forget just how much waste there is in our global system:
As much as half of all the food produced in the world – equivalent to 2bn tonnes – ends up as waste every year, engineers warned in a report published on Thursday.

The UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) 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. Their report, Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not, 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 retailers' 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.

And about 550bn cubic metres of water is 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 1 kilogramme of meat than 1kg of vegetables; the demand for water in food production could reach 10–13 trillion cubic metres 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 IMechE 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.
Almost half of the world's food thrown away, report finds (Guardian)

That reminds me of this from last year:
On Thursday, Sainsbury's relaxed its rules on the cosmetic appearance of fresh produce and allowed fruit and vegetables that would normally be ploughed back into fields to be sold in its 1,012 stores.

"We've taken the decision to radically change our approach to buying British fruit and vegetables as a result of this year's unseasonal weather. This may mean a bit more mud on peas or strawberries that are a little smaller than usual, but our customers understand and love the idea," said Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury's food.

"The unpredictable weather this season, has left growers with bumper crops of ugly-looking fruit and vegetables with reported increases in blemishes and scarring, as well as shortages due to later crops. We've committed to make use of all fruit and veg that meets regulation and stands up on taste, and hope customers will help us all make the most of the British crop in spite of its sometimes unusual appearance," she said. Other supermarkets, including Morrisons and Waitrose, have said they may also relax standards.

The move by Sainsbury's has delighted food and poverty campaigners who have long argued that rejecting good food on aesthetic rather than on nutritional grounds is morally wrong and also increases prices. The UK Soil Association, which sets standards for organic produce, has estimated that 20-40% of some UK fruit and vegetables are rejected because they are misshapen or discoloured even before they reach the shops.

"It's about time supermarkets woke up to the urgent need to reduce food waste by accepting perfectly good but irregular shaped fruit and vegetables. But they must not return to the bad old days when huge amounts of food was rejected because it didn't meet their cosmetic standards," said Friends of the Earth land campaigner Vicki Hird.
'Ugly' fruit and veg make the grade on UK supermarket shelves (Guardian)

Our ancestors who lived through famines must be clawing at their graves.

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