News / Health

Report: Up to Half of World Food Production is Wasted

Henry Ridgwell
Up to half of the food the world produces goes to waste, according to a new report. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Britain says cutting waste is vital if the world is to meet food demand as the global population soars.
In a barn hundreds of meters long, thousands of chickens are producing eggs on an industrial scale. Conveyor belts take the eggs directly to the packing area. From this farm in eastern France, they are taken across Europe.
Every year the world produces around four billion tons of food. And between a third and half of it goes to waste, according to the report from the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
The group says that in Southeast Asian countries for example, losses of rice can range from 37% to 80% of total production. Much of this can be traced to how it  is harvested, stored and transported, says report co-author Colin Brown.
“[Food] is trying to rot all the time, so you’ve got to keep it dry, you’ve got to keep it cool and you’ve got to transport it and use it as quickly as possible. So I think when you haven’t got the infrastructure, you haven’t got the railways, you haven’t got the shipping, you’re doing damage to it every time you move it," he said. 
In developed economies such as in Europe and the United States, the report says more efficient farming practices ensure that more of the food produced reaches consumers. But it claims millions of tons of food is thrown away because it’s past its sell-by date, or sometimes because it doesn’t reach the supermarket shelves at all.
“Certainly once you get it to the supermarket, they have very high standards about what it ought to look like, never mind about how it ought to taste or whether it’s edible or valuable. But exactly how it ought to look. And so we throw a lot away just because it’s not cosmetically attractive," he said. 
That’s not the fault of the stores, says Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets.
“In fact, these are EU marketing rules and the retailers have been at the forefront of pushing for a relaxation in them. And that has happened. Back in 2009, 26 different items of produce were taken off those lists," he said. 
Many aid agencies and charities welcomed the report for highlighting the huge amount of waste at a time when millions of people suffer from malnutrition.
Aid agency Save the Children says there is enough food in the world to feed every child - but still 2.3 million children die as a result of hunger every year.

Director of Policy Brendan Cox said, “Families are having to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their children and nobody should have to make that choice."
Large amounts of land, energy, fertilizers and water are also lost in the production of food which simply end up as waste, according to the report authors. But they say there is another message in the figures.
“The very positive message here is that while we’re losing so much in waste, the population growth and the demand for food across the world - we can meet it if we just reduce the waste. We don’t need to cut down lots more forests and plant a lot more crops," he said. 
And with the global population predicted to peak at 9.5 billion people by 2075, the report concludes that reducing wastage must be part of the plan to meet that demand.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Abdul Ibrahim from: Sao Paulo
January 16, 2013 5:15 PM
Thanks to the developed countries...visit one Food Court at a shopping Mall near you and see how people waste food in an inconsiderable way. This is not to mention restaurants.......

by: Jeremy
January 15, 2013 1:23 PM
Perhaps these Engineers should "brainstorm" the land seizures in Zimbabwe and see what mayhem was unleashed on the farmers and their employees, some of whom were murdered, beaten up and are now landless with no recourse to justice.Their findings would demonstrate the irreparable damage to the economy and the hardship of massive unemployment

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs