A new report by a UK organisation claims that as much as half of the food produced around the world is never eaten.
The Institute of Mechanical Engineers claims, in their ‘Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not’ report, that 30-50% of the four billion tonnes of food produced across the globe each year ends up being trown away.
“The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today.
“It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.
“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers, ” said Dr Tim Fox, the Institute’s Head of Energy and Environment.
Unsurprisingly, it the wealtheir developed economies which are to blame for most of the waste. The study estimated, for example, that 30% of vegetables grown in the United Kingdom are never even harvested – purely because of their physical appearance. In both the United States and Europe, the study found that half of all the food which is purchased ends up being thrown away.
With climate change making water supply an increasingly important issue in many regions of the world, the 550 billion cubic metres of water used each year to grow food which never gets eaten is also a serious concern, say the report’s authors. The global demand for water to use in food production could reach 10-13 trilion cubic metres by 2050, and many countries will struggle to meet demand.
“As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods.
“But in order for this to happen governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN must work together to help change people’s mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers,” said Dr Fox.
Food price inflation has risen in recent years, especially following droughts in many of the world’s leading food producers in 2012. This led the UN Food Agency to warn of the dangers of food riots last year. Clearly food wastage, particularly in the early stages of production, are a significant contributor to global food prices.