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The world's $750 billion problem: food waste

Posting in Food

A new report from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization points to a major global food waste problem that's hurting the economy and the planet.

According to the report, one-third of the food produced each year -- 1.3 billion tonnes -- is wasted. The U.N. estimates that the waste adds up to more than $750 billion in direct economic costs annually -- more than the GDP of Switzerland, the world's 20th largest economy in terms of GDP.

In addition to economic costs, the report says that 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere from the production of uneaten food, making it a larger source of carbon emissions than most countries except China and the United States.

But which regional commodities are the biggest contributors? As Lily Kuo points out at Quartz, it's cereals from Asia, with rice accounting for the majority of the waste -- about 150 million tonnes.

Why does all this rice go to waste? Poor processing, transportation or storage result in rice being spilled or spoiled before getting to consumers. Some waste also happens on the consumer side as people simply throw uneaten rice away. The UN estimates that 80 kilograms of cereals, mostly rice, are wasted per person in the region every year.

It's a problem that will only get worse (unless steps are taken) as the region's urban population surges.

Read the full report.

Photo: Flickr/sporkist

— By on September 15, 2013, 8:00 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure