With so many people going hungry or even starving, it seems obscene for so many of us to throw away so much food in so many parts of the world. It has been estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste globally each year. Around a third of all food produced worldwide. Costing the global economy an estimated one trillion dollars annually, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the UN Environment Programme.
It is both a technical problem and a problem of attitude.
In many parts of the developed world where politics has been stable and consumers are very wealthy by international standards, there is little social sanction about throwing food away. It was not like that a generation ago when people who lived through the Second World War, knew first-hand about privations and there was strong social conventions about not wasting anything.
Our keynote interview in the BBC World News “Horizons” programme was with Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations who talked to us about the challenge of eradicating hunger. It’s a message we have heard repeated many times, for many years by many people.
Most famously in the 1970s, Dr.Henry Kissinger, speaking at the World Food Conference in Rome, said: “Today we must proclaim a bold objective: that within a decade no child will go to bed hungry, that no family will fear for its next day bread and that no human being’s future and well-being will be stunted by malnutrition." Promises like those, as well meaning and sincere as they may have been, have not been fulfilled.
A change of mind
Food waste is only a part of the hunger problem, but it is a part in which millions of us can play a part in the solution not just technicians and scientists.
Da Silva says: “This is one of the biggest problems we face. Despite producing enough food for all, at least one third, or even in some areas half of it, does not become food to eat, its waste. We lose the food during the harvest, in storage and transportation and storage. But we also waste food in the sense that we throw out food that we can eat.” He believes the solution to all of this lies not just in technological innovation but with a change in attitudes.
Today huge resources are, well quite literally trashed, so we need to change the way we handle food if we’re to cut food waste. Now, keeping food fresher for longer and new technologies in the supply chain are only part of solution. What we really need is a change in philosophy; to think about the food we grow and rear differently.
Only then will we be able to tackle the waste issue.
BBC World News Horizons runs every Saturday at 2.30 AM and 9.30 AM and every Sunday at 3.30 PM and 9.30 PM CET.
More information and online video clips: www.bbc.com/horizonsbusiness