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G20: Food wastage is an ‘enormous’ global problem

Household Food Waste in New York, USA. Creative Commons: petrr, 2008.

Household Food Waste in New York, USA. Creative Commons: petrr, 2008.

Food wasted by consumers is an enormous economic, environmental and societal problem, and nations should ensure excess food is given to the hungry instead of being thrown away, G20 agriculture ministers have said.

At a two-day meeting in Istanbul, the ministers focused on problems of food security and nutrition, also taking the impact of climate change into account.

In their final communique, ministers said a reduction in the amount of food wasted would improve food security.

The ministers said:

We note with great concern the significant extent of food loss and waste … and their negative consequences for food security, nutrition, use of natural resources and the environment.

We highlight this as a global problem of enormous economic, environmental and societal significance.

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or roughly 30% of global production, is lost or wasted annually, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in its report ‘Food waste footprint: Impacts on natural resources’ last year.

According to UN agencies, this would easily feed the world’s 800 million hungry.

In developing countries, food is lost because of improper storage or transportation. However, in rich nations it is often just wasted.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday ahead of the meeting:

In the developed world, it’s really about reducing the size of portions. It’s about making sure people understand precisely when food is no longer good for human consumption.

I think there’s a tendency to throw things away more quickly than need be.

According to Vilsack, food is the single largest component of solid waste in US landfills. It also acts as a large producer of methane gas, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted from human activity in the country.

To fight the problem of food waste, countries need better estimates of the amount of food they waste, as well as the economic impact of food loss, the G20 ministers said.

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