A Global Food Waste Agreement

The Lempert Report
January 13, 2016

We talk a lot about food being wasted, now we talk about why.

At the recent global climate summit in Paris, the big headline was passage of an agreement that, for the first time, commits nearly every nation in the world to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Less noticed, but also important, was officials' effort to get nations to tackle another, lesser-known driver of climate change that also helps perpetuate hunger: the massive amount of food across the planet that goes to waste.

You’ve heard the stats - about one-third of all food around the world, about 1.3 billion tons, goes uneaten each year according the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. What is horrifying is that would feed almost 900 million people. Here in the U.S. the numbers are even worse. We waste about 40% of our food according to the NRDC. That’s 52% of fruits and vegetables, half of our seafood, over one-third of grains and less than one-quarts of meats.

Why all this waste in the U.S.? According to NRDC much is wasted for four basic reasons: because shoppers, retailers and distributors don’t like “ugly produce,”  seasonal or climate condition changes in crops production that affect prices that make it harder to sell at retail, the American culture of buying products when on sale and they spoil before use and those super-size portions in restaurants. Perhaps our supermarket retailers need to rethink merchandising strategies that induce people to buy more than they can consume?

Other parts of the world that are less developed, only about 10% of food is wasted, and that is usually due to a poor supply chain, where according to NRDC, delivery trucks might not have refrigeration, or may get a flat tire and by the time it is repaired the foods have spoiled, or due to poor quality roads, foods just bunch off the truck to the ground.

The Paris Global Climate Summit has passed an unprecedented agreement which will monitor and change climate change across the world. They also have addressed the food waste problem and have announced a goal to reduce food waste in half by 2030 through a system to monitor food wastefulness and share information to prevent food loss.