19 February 2009

50% of food wasted: UN

The UN has unveiled an ambitious seven-point plan to feed the world without polluting it further by making better use of resources and cutting down on massive waste.


The UN Environment Programme has unveiled an ambitious seven-point plan to feed the world without polluting it further by making better use of resources and cutting down on massive waste.

A survey of the current state of food production and consumption released to a forum of the Kenya-based UNEP and world environment ministers showed colossal waste but also came up with green solutions.

"Over half of the food produced today is either lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said of a 104-page report released on Tuesday. "There is evidence within the report that the world could feed the entire projected population growth (of about three billion by 2050) alone by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals, birds and fish on this planet," he said.

30 mill tons of fish wasted
Researchers roved from the Arctic to Australia, noting for instance that 30 million tons of fish were discarded at sea annually, while "almost one-third of all food purchased in the United Kingdom each year is not eaten."

Prodigious quantities of cereals currently used worldwide as livestock fodder could feed people, the report said. But waste of food produced is only one aspect of a wide-ranging survey that covers issues ranging from climate change, drought and land degradation to the negative impact of fertilisers and pesticides on crops and the food chain.

"We need a green revolution in a green economy, but one with a capital G," Steiner told the Nairobi conference which runs to Friday. "We need to deal not only with the way the world produces food but the way that it is distributed, sold and consumed, and we need a revolution that can boost yields by working with, rather than against, nature."

Improving food security
The focus on waste highlights a rarely surveyed field, Steiner said, and suggested, for example, that "losses and food waste in the United States could be as high as 40 to 50%."

The seven goals "for improving food security" covered in the report ranged from short-term price issues to long-term global warming measures. In the short term, rapporteurs considered the regulation of food prices with safety nets for the poor, along with promoting environmentally sustainable bio-fuels that do not compete for cropland.

Measures to raise public awareness of the issues and also face up to climate change are expected to have a long-term impact. The measures recommended for a mid-term effect include steps to:

  • "Reallocate cereals used in animal feed to human consumption by developing alternative feeds based on new technology, waste and discards. This could feed nearly the entire projected population growth" (to an estimated nine billion people overall by 2050).
  • "Support small-scale farmers by a global fund for micro-finance in developing diversified and resilient ecoagriculture and intercropping systems.
  • "Increase trade and market access by improving infrastructure, reducing trade barriers, enhancing government subsidies and safety nets, as well as reducing armed conflict and corruption."

The document is entitled 'The environmental food crisis: environment's role in averting future food crises' and can be accessed at or at The survey, which also considers threats to endangered species and tackling these from an environmental perspective, can be downloaded in .pdf format from It is widely illustrated with photographs and with graphics for free use in publications. – (Sapa)

Read more:
Famine: 20 million at risk
EnviroHealth Centre

February 2009


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