Food waste a huge environmental problem, states UN FAO.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has published what it claims is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at the consequences of food waste for the climate, water, land use, and biodiversity. This report is as alarming as anything published by environmental groups. According to the report, one third of all food produced goes to waste, with annual consequences:

  •  food that is produced but not eaten consumes roughly  250 cubic kilometres of water, about half the volume of Lake Erie.
  • emission of 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, more than four times Canada’s total GHG emissions.
  • direct economic consequences of $750 billion.

The report, and an accompanying toolkit to assist in food waste reduction, underlines the multiple benefits that can be realized– in many cases through simple and thoughtful measures — by households, retailers, restaurants, schools and businesses that can contribute to environmental sustainability, economic improvements, food security and the realization of the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge.

The report states that 54% of the world’s food wastage occurs “upstream” during production, post-harvest handling and storage, while 46% happens “downstream,” at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle- and high-income regions of the world.

A summary, with links to the report and to the toolkit for reducing food waste, is available at http://www.rlc.fao.org/en/press/news/food-waste-harms-climate-water-land-and-biodiversity-new-fao-report/ A more detailed summary will be included in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter. Readers may also be interested in the ‘restaurant’ feature in the current issue of Gallon Environment Letter, a free subscription to which is available for a limited time (individuals only) by sending your email address to subscriptions@gallonletter.ca or, for organizational subscriptions, by visiting http://www.cialgroup.ca/subscription.htm

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