FAO Calls for ‘Good Policy Choices’ to Combat Food Waste
In a global first, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has fully measured how as much as 20% of food produced in different world regions is lost somewhere between harvest and market—critical knowledge for researchers and policy-makers struggling both to combat hunger and curb greenhouse gas emissions from food waste.
The FAO said the latest numbers show an average global food loss of 14%, with central and south Asia at 20%, Europe and North America at “more than 15%,” and Australia and New Zealand measuring the lowest, “at about 6%,” reports the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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The numbers are important, said FAO Assistant Director-General Maximo Torero Cullen, as they will allow policy-makers to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t in reducing food loss.
The FAO flagged multiple causes for food waste at different points along the supply chain, including inadequate storage (especially in areas increasingly stressed by heat) and exposure to disease and pests.
In addition to exacerbating hunger, the losses mean that “land and water resources have been wasted, pollution created, and greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted to no purpose,” Thomson Reuters writes, citing an FAO release.
While policy changes can “eliminate a significant amount” of global food loss, Torero Cullen said success will be costly, and will depend on policy-makers making good choices. The report said those decisions will have to factor in the complex economics of agricultural commodities: While “slashing these losses on the farm could increase food availability for small-scale farmers in low-income countries who might also make money selling the surplus,” it stated, “a glut in produce could depress prices as well as demand.”
While “reductions in the early stages of the food supply chain are most effective in addressing food security or natural resources stress,” the FAO added, the best way to reduce GHG emissions is to tackle food waste by retailers and consumers.