By Joseph McAuley
The next time you are about to throw out that half-eaten container of fast-food take-out, consider these facts: about one-third of the world’s food production and consumption systems either gets lost or wasted—that comes to about 1.3 billion tons, the value of which comes to the astronomical sum of $1 trillion. And this in a world where one in every nine people go hungry: an estimated 900 million people. The food that is lost or wasted by industrialized nations alone (some 300 million tons) more or less equals the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons). It is indeed alarming to think that, according to the United Nations’ Environment Program, of all the food that is produced, only one in four calories are actually eaten. And yet, with all the food that is available, people go hungry. Why is that?
The answers (if there are “answers”) are as many as the stars in the sky. And yet, more and more people are becoming aware of this glaring disparity between supply and need. An international effort is being undertaken to raise awareness of the humanitarian, environmental and financial implications of the effects of food waste. The “sustainability of the food system” is the aim of many international organizations—particularly the United Nations—in combating one of the major crises (if not the crisis) of our time. The European Union, in particular, is advancing the goal of having member states embracing the task of working toward eliminating food waste by 50 by the year 2025. It is an audacious target, given that the EU proposal is concerned not only with the retail and distribution end of food production, but of personal, consumer use as well and that, within the European Union, the amount of food wasted annually comes to about 100 million tons—a figure that will surely go higher as time goes on if the issue is not met. More…