The world throws away up to half of its food according to an alarming report that blames consumers' fussy preference for cosmetically appealing produce, supermarket promotions that encourage overbuying, and deficient storage, transportation and agricultural practices.
Between 1.2 billion and 2 billion metric tons of food - out of the 4 billion produced annually - never reaches a human stomach, the UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers says in Waste Not Want Not - Global Food Waste: Feeding the 9 billion.
"The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering," says Tim Fox, IME's head of energy and environment. "This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population - as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.
"The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers."
The annual water wastage from growing discarded crops totals about 550 billion cubic meters, IME reports.
As shocking as this situation is today, it could become much worse by 2075 when, according to United Nations estimates, the world will have to feed an extra 3 billion people as the population surges to 9.5 billion.
"As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods," Fox says.
Consider IME's report as food for thought the next time you reject a crooked carrot or a lumpy apple.
Photo: Carleton Garden Blogspot
A few food courses on SmartPlanet:
- Rooftop farms budding in Beijing, Hong Kong
- How to solve a universally irritating problem
- The simple plan that saved a supermarket chain millions
- The Morning Briefing: The state of food in 2012
- China mulls vegetables on Mars
- $282 million of turkey trashed during U.S. Thanksgiving
- Your next refrigerator could be a magnet
- Fenugreen's FreshPaper lets produce keep for longer