World wastes half its food, study finds
- Globally about 4.4 billion tons of food is produced, engineering group said
- Consumers in developed countries throw as much as 50 percent away
- Waste comes at all stages - harvesting, storage, transportation, and purchasing
(CNN) -- Up to half of the world's food is wasted, according to a new report that found production inefficiencies in developing countries and market and consumer waste in more advanced societies.
The British-based independent Institution of Mechanical Engineerssaid about 4.4 billion tons of food is produced annually and roughly half of it is never eaten.
Some of it is lost to inefficient harvesting, storage and transportation, while the rest is wasted by markets or consumers. The group also said food waste also impacts land, energy and water use.
"This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands," the group said in its report.
Starting the study in 2010, engineers began examining populations that were fully developed, such as those in Europe.
They also analyzed food production and consumption practices in countries at various states of development, like China, and newer levels of development, like those in Africa.
While waste occurred globally, broader food production problems seem to be more prevalent in less developed areas.
In sub-Saharan Africa, waste typically occurrs at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain, the study showed. Harvesting, transportation and infrastructure also tend to be poor. And food is also rarely stored properly in these areas.
In Southeast Asia, up to 80 percent of the rice harvest is lost, the group noted.
As far as the developed world, Britain has much more efficient farming practices, better transportation, storage and processing facilities. But food is still wasted at the wholesale and retail levels.
Customers end up throwing away as much as half of what they buy, the study said.
Markets also waste food.
"Major supermarkets, in meeting consumer expectations, will often reject entire crops of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables at the farm because they do not meet exacting marketing standards for their physical characteristics, such as size and appearance," the study said.
Because of that, up to 30% of Britain's vegetable crop is never harvested.
Moreover, sales promotions "frequently encourage customers to purchase excessive quantities," which they don't eat, the study said.
This is so depressing :( I try to only buy what I'm going to use. I feel extremely guilty when I have to throw things away. And think of all the fruit and vegetables that get thrown away in stores because they have a blemish or don't look perfect. Ughhhhhhhh
January 13, 2013 at 1:03 PM
They didn't even mention subsidies. You know, how certain products the farmers are paid to burn or destroy a portion of the crop? It helps keep the market stable, but the reality is you are paying more for the bag/container you take your groceries home in than the food product itself.
This REALLY pissed me off during the drought. Your smaller farmers lost everything in the drought, whole fields of corn, soy, wheat that burned up in the sun. The lucky ones still collected subsidies or insurance, but many lost their farms. But corporate farms sucked out water from whereve they could, gladly paying the fines for using more than their fair share of water during ration periods, creating sinkholes that destroyed some homes and businesses...and then burned 10% of their crop, sold a percentage to markets other than food or animal feed (like ethanol) and started telling the media there would be a food shortage and the prices must go up.
Farming is getting more and more efficient, but getting food to where it needs to be is not. It isn't easy to get fresh foods to places like Ethiopia. I think some of those incredible engineers and super smart problem solvers should start working on a way to make farming possible in such regions. We have all this talk of hydroponics, Japan is already building giant buildings for hydroponic farming so they no longer have to import so much. If we could just get that ball rolling, there'd be much less waste, and much less spoiling in shipping. You simply take the plant in the pallette and deliver it to the location while it is still alive, still on the vine!
Sure, there are logistical problems to work out with it, but I think hydroponics would help places with harsh climates or less land mass to be able to feed their own people and cut back on wasted foods, because they could build farms vertical instead of horizontal, and collect dew and such to make it work.
This is something of which I was well aware and have posted about before. There are groups out there who are attempting to help with this problem. At home I do my part by composting. I don't consider it waste if it helps me grow more food...it is more like recycling. But too much happens in the chain before it gets to me or goes to the restaurant.