A Staggering 1/3 of Global Food Supply Wasted, Report Says

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Think before you scrap. Photo: Flickr/jbloom
Think before you scrap. Photo: Flickr/jbloom

We all know that food waste is a growing global problem, but a United Nations report released this month indicates that the effect of all that wasted food may be even greater than previous estimates.

The report, “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources,” is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food waste from a holistic environmental perspective — examining its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.

Food waste totals — about 1.3 billion tons annually, or a staggering one-third of the global food supply — align with previous findings, but the broad-sweeping effects of global food waste are perhaps even more shocking.

Surprising eco impact

UN researchers found that food produced but not eaten each year guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Additionally, annual global food waste also causes $750 billion in economic losses for food producers — equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland, the study found.

“We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day.”

“All of us — farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers — must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and reuse or recycle it when we can’t,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, the UN agency that produced the report, said in a press release.

“We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” he added.

Next page: Effects on biodiversity