News / Africa

Over a Billion Tons of Food Wasted Annually

A CropMobster gleaning, collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)
A CropMobster gleaning, collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A new study says one-point-three billion tons of food are wasted or lost every year, causing significant harm to both the environment and the economy. The food losses occur as an estimated 870 million people go hungry every day.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says it has released the first study to “analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective.”

The report differentiates between food loss and food waste. Food loss is due to such things as poor harvesting, inadequate storage and transportation. It’s more of a supply side issue. Food waste, meanwhile, comes on the demand-side during processing, distribution and consumption.

FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “Every day, consumers, especially in the rich countries, waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. The implication of this massive food waste for food security and sustainability is huge. If we reduce food loss and waste, we have more food available without the need to produce more and putting less pressure on natural resources.”

The report – Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources – says the amount of food that is produced, but not eaten, “guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River.” That unconsumed food, it says, is also responsible for three-point-three billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Developing countries suffer more food losses during agriculture production. But in high income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher. Up to 40 percent of total wastage compared with only four to 16 percent in low income regions,” he said.

Graziano da Silva added there’s also the economic cost.

“The food wastage means $750 billion every year. This impressive figure is the equivalent of the GDP of Switzerland.”

Joining in the release of the new report is Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, the U.N. Environment Program. He called the $750 billion figure “an extraordinary wake-up call” for those thinking about food security and agriculture.

“In that figure we may not even capture many of the more indirect impacts that are associated with degradation of natural resources. The impacts on climate change. The drivers that will cost perhaps not today’s consumers of food, but tomorrow’s children and grandchildren, who have to run our economies and mange these impacts in ways that are economically not yet fully captured,” said Steiner.

He emphasized the losses and waste do not only occur on land.

“We again have phenomena where in many fishing fleets – sometimes 20, 30, 50–percent of the catch is thrown back into the sea. But it is not as if fish will happily continue to swim. Many of them will be dead and essentially no longer available either for consumption or indeed for maintaining the fish stocks of the world. So, we are really trying to address a phenomenon here today that concerns each and every one of us on the planet,” he said.

He said the types of food being raised to meet the demands of growing economies are having a greater impact on the environment. More countries are adopting a Western style diet that’s high in meat consumption. Livestock produce a lot of greenhouse gasses.

“Our initiative with thinkeatsave.org is to reach out to literally citizens across all countries, all continents, in all sectors, to become part of addressing this phenomenon of wastage that simply is unnecessary, unacceptable and unsustainable in the 21st Century. We are all able to address this issue by becoming part of the solution,” said Steiner.

Recommendations to reduce food loss and waste include raising awareness about the problems through media campaigns – coordinating international initiatives and strategies – and investing in public and private projects that reduce loss along the food chain from field to market to consumer.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid