Discarded roti bread along the Sabarmati River in Ahmadabad, India, June 5, 2013 (Photo: AP)
One-third of all the food humanity produces each year is wasted, according to a new report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That works out to 1.3 billion tonnes of food that doesn't get eaten every single year.
All that waste is bad for the environment, contributes to world hunger and costs the global economy about $750 billion a year, say the authors of the report, "Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources".
"We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day," FAO's director general Jose Graziano da Silva said at a press conference.
Different parts of the world tend to waste food in different ways, the UN report finds: high-income countries waste the most during the consumption phase, while developing countries lose food during the production phase.
According to Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), eliminating food wastage has "enormous potential" to reduce hunger. He called on individuals in high-income countries to adopt new habits to help tackle the problem.
"Each one of us has a role to play. Starting with the ridiculous phenomenon in wealthy countries of not buying crooked vegetables any more," he said. He also suggested that "best before" dates should not lead to immediate disposal of food.
The main focus of the report is the environmental footprint of food wastage. One area of discussion is how much water is wasted in producing food that is thrown away.
Every year, food that isn't eaten "guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet's atmosphere," according to the study.
Another environmental effect mentioned in the report is land use: "produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30 per cent of the world's agricultural land area."
George is the World Food Programme's first Canadian Ambassador Against Hunger.
Via Al Jazeera