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Food waste reduction could help feed world's starving

"If food was as expensive as a Ferrari, we would polish it and look after it."

Instead, we waste staggering amounts.

Some 40% of all the food produced in the United States is never eaten. In Europe, we throw away 100 million tonnes of food every year.

And yet there are one billion starving people in the world.

The FAO's best guess is that one third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted before it is eaten.

Food waste:

33% of all food is wasted

$750bn cost of waste food

28% of farmland grows food that will be thrown away

6-10% of greenhouse gases come from waste food

39% of household food waste is fruit and vegetables

(Source: UN/FAOSPL)

The latest report from the expert panel of the UN Committee on World Food Security concludes that food waste happens for many different reasons in different parts of the world and therefore the solutions have to be local.

http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/hlpe/hlpe_documents/HLPE_Reports/HLPE-Report-8_EN.pdf

Food in wealthy countries takes up only a relatively small proportion of income and so people can afford to throw food away.

In developing countries, the problem is one not of wealth but of poverty.

In India's soaring temperatures fruit and vegetables do not stay fresh on the market stall for long. Delhi has Asia's largest produce market and it does have a cold storage facility.

But it is not big enough and rotting food is left out in piles. There is not enough investment in better farming techniques, transportation and storage. It means lost income for small farmers and higher prices for poor consumers.

In terms of calories, farmers harvest the equivalent of 4,600 calories of food per person per day. But on average only 2,000 of those calories are actually eaten every day - meaning more than half the calories we produce are lost on their way from farm to dinner fork.

There is enough food for everyone, just a lot of inefficiency, the FAO report concludes.

The environmental impact of all this wasted food is enormous. The amount of land needed to grow all the food wasted in the world each year would be the size of Mexico.

The water used to irrigate wasted crops would be enough for the daily needs of nine million people. And wasted production contributes 10% to the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries.

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, New York, is one project trying to reverse that environmental damage. The plant takes food scraps from local schools and restaurants and converts them into energy. Inside towering, silver eggs food waste is mixed with sewage sludge to create usable gas.

The pilot programme is particularly timely. New York City's restaurants will be required to stop sending food waste to landfills in 2015 and will have to turn to operations like these as alternatives.

So progress is being made. Waste food is high on the agenda politically and environmentally.

But there is still much more work to be done. We don't really know how much food is being wasted. We just know it's a lot.

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Hans Peter Straumann Sikandar Alam
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'Pancia piena' - you must be kidding !!!
In that case you may be spending less as well !!!