Food wastage – food for thought?
Food waste has been established as a global issue for years now, and while leading countries like France have declared a ban on food wastage, the international community still fails to adequately address this dilemma with due importance. In fact, every year, one third of the total food produced goes to waste; at the same time, millions of individuals suffer from malnutrition, while millions of others die of starvation. This is an issue that has caused great instability in the world, as well as augmented several ecological conflicts, and this is an indisputable fact.
For starters, the leading cause of world hunger has been determined to be inefficient distribution of food rather than the shortage of food supplies, leaving us to question the system in place. In spite of our economic advancement and modernisation, immense amounts of food are wasted due to inadequate storage and transportation. Not only is this an increasingly pressing socio-economic problem, but as scientists have recently discovered, also an ecological concern.
The Food Waste Footprint is the gross impact of food waste on environmental aspects such as water resources, land, climate, and biodiversity. Essentially, the pollution caused during the production, distribution, marketing, and disposal of food is increasing exponentially as production increases in order to be able to match the growing demand; however, the simultaneous accumulation of wasted food seriously damages the ecological cycle. Decaying food (edible and inedible) can cause growth of vermin and pests in unhygienic conditions, leading to various infectious diseases such as Hantavirus and Salmonella.
Another rising concern is the rapid escalation in Greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions during the agricultural phase. Soil usage, livestock, fertilizers, and decaying vegetation (amongst other things) cause a release of gases such as methane and dinitrogen oxide, which, along with other common GHGs and chlorofluorocarbons, result in further depletion of the ozone layer and contribute to the larger issue of climate change. Poultry and animal farming for meat cause similar forms of pollution in addition to organic waste, which can be hazardous if not appropriately disposed of.
“…one third of the total food produced goes to waste; at the same time, millions of individuals suffer from malnutrition, while millions of others die of starvation.”
Statistically speaking, food waste is a regionally varying issue – that is, the kind of food (grains, meats, fruits, etc.) and the amount of it wasted differ from region to region. Thus, a large-scale solution cannot be put into action. Fortunately, this issue is being gradually recognized on both global and local platforms, and methods to improve the situation are being put into action.
The United Nations Environment Program, in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organisation and other non-governmental organisations, has published a food wastage prevention document as part of their Think.Eat.Save program, and are working in unison to tackle this issue. Additionally, WRAP, a UK-based organisation, is operating with the aim of aiding manufacturers and businesses reduce their in-store wastage, organise awareness campaigns, and much more. Much like WRAP, there are other organisations out there with the aim of solving this problem, however, despite all this progress, we can only truly hope to exterminate food waste through greater individual effort and legislative support. Solutions along the lines of efficient distribution of food supplies and more adequately equipped storage facilities located close to agricultural areas have been suggested, however, this cannot be the end of it. There needs to be a greater awareness amongst the global population and a stronger voice calling out for more impactful steps for managing food wastage, and thus, mitigating its disastrous effects.