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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid