Finish your vegetables, and there won’t be so many children starving in China. That’s the gist of a remarkable new report by the United Nations Environment Programme. It just issued a seven-point plan that targets reducing massive food waste as a major strategy to counter malnutrition without taxing the world’s resources further. (Recently I wrote about new global-warming related anxieties about farm outputs.)
Shockingly, the report found that over half of the world’s food is wasted, from bycatch (less desirable fish thrown back into the ocean from fishing boats), to corn fed to cattle that could be munching grass, to unsold vegetables rotting in fields in countries with poor infrastructure, to edible food discarded from restaurants and grocery stores in affluent countries.
To address the issue, one of the seven recommendations put forth to improve food security is to increase food energy efficiency by "capture and recycling of post-harvest losses and waste." In the U.S., this may mean changing laws to make it easier for restaurants, for example, to donate food, or to get post-consumer food waste back into the energy stream as animal feed or compost.
It's striking how efficiency—achieved through greater use of information and technology—is becoming such an environmental watchword from energy, to water, to food. An expert I spoke with at IBM for the Fast 50 had a lot to say about the importance of tracking food from the farm to the fork.
And in mostly overfed countries like ours, individual behavior does have a role to play in increasing awareness, whether that means freeganism and dumpster diving, or just eating your leftovers.
The full report can be downloaded here; Via Grist