While the previous article Once Upon a Time a Planet. First part may have disturbed you by presenting to you a sharp panoramic picture showing how dangerous human-made pollution is now, this Part II might probably molest with you another situation in which most of us are involved... hopefully inadvertently!
It is simply about the growing voracious consumption in particular in rich societies, and the never-stoppable commercial greed dominating worldwide. See what happens:
When you go to the supermarket, you will be challenged with tremendously attractive, almost irresistible “bargains” such as, “Pay 2, Take 3”! “Special Offer,” or simply “Save”!
A human, explainable human impulse to get more for less often pushes us to take advantage of such attractive deals, often without asking ourselves if we do really need all what we are about to buy.
The consequence is that we will probably end up not consuming all what such deals persuading us of buying, and thus dumping the extra quantity we took home simply because it has expired.
Meantime, consumers have been systematically, powerfully attracted by the “look” of the products we buy: beautiful, brilliant apples, perfectly shaped potatoes, amazingly round red tomatoes, and a long etcetera. Here again, we do not usually think that such “perfect” products have implied discarding a big amount of the “ugly” ones.
Lost and Wasted
The result is that is that one-third –one third! -- of all food produced for human consumption is lost and or wasted. Here, the figures are self-explanatory: as much as 1.3 billion tonnes per year of food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production down to final household consumption, according to the United Nations.
Moreover, the UN reports that it is not just about just losing or wasting food—it also implies a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before people consume it... It is excess in an age where almost a billion people go hungry, warns the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
What Is Food Loss and What Is Food Waste?
Food loss and food waste refer to the decrease of food in subsequent stages of the food supply chain intended for human consumption. Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial production down to final household consumption, explains FAO.
The decrease may be accidental or intentional, but ultimately leads to less food available for all. Food that gets spilled or spoilt before it reaches its final product or retail stage is called food loss, it adds while explaining that this may be due to problems in harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure or market /price mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.
According to this leading UN agency on the fields of food and agriculture, harvested bananas that fall off a truck, for instance, are considered food loss, while food that is fit for human consumption but is not consumed because it is or left to spoil or discarded by retailers or consumers is called food waste.
Now please see these shocking findings provided by this UN specialised food and agriculture organisation:
• Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
• Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US 680 billion US dollars in industrialised countries and 310 billion US dollars in developing countries.
• Industrialised and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
• Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
• Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish.
• Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
• The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
• Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kilogrammes a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and South-Eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kilogrammes g a year.
Where Is Food Most Lost and Most Wasted?
The World Resources Institute (WRI) explains that food loss and waste occurs more ‘near the fork’ in developed regions and more ‘near the farm’ in developing regions.
In the case of the European Union (EU) member countries, for instance, recent estimates of European food waste levels (FUSIONS, 2016) reveal that 70% of this European bloc of 27 states, food waste arises in the household, food service and retail sectors, with production and processing sectors contributing the remaining 30%.
Such high rates led the EU member states to commit to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), adopted in September 2015, including a target to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030, and reduce food losses along the food production and supply chains.
Meanwhile, in the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40% of the food supply.
According to the Office of the Chief Economist, United States Department of Agriculture, this amount of waste has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change:
• Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills.
• The land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food are pulled away from uses that may have been more beneficial to society – and generate impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet.
• Food waste, which is the single largest component going into municipal landfills, quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.
Last But Not Least!
Let’s forget for a moment about other temptations such as the summer “Sales”, the Xmas “Sales!”, the “Black Fridays”, the Halloween... all of them aimed at feeding the insatiable greed of big business.
Meanwhile, the United Nations reminds that hunger is still one of the most urgent development challenges, yet the world is producing more than enough food.
In fact, the huge amount of food lost and/or wasted, in particular in rich countries, would be just enough to feed the nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every single night.