Seven principles for ending hunger:

Battle against wastage


Third principle: Battle against wastage

Battle against food losses and food wastage

  1. It is now generally recognised that a large part (around one third) of the food produced in the world is lost or wasted and does not serve as food for people. The cost of this wastage is enormous:


  3. USD 750 billion of losses for producers (fish and shellfish excluded), i.e. the equivalent of the GDP of Switzerland or Turkey

  4. The volume of water used for producing the food wasted or lost is equivalent to the annual water of river Volga in Russia or three times the volume of water in Geneva lake between Switzerland and France

  5. 1.4 billion ha or one third of the world agricultural area sees its production lost or wasted

  6. Vast amounts of fossil fuels are used in producing wasted food and its decomposition also contributes to climate change through greenhouse gas production (especially methane).

  7. More than half of the losses takes place ‘‘upstream’’ during production, harvesting, handling and storage, mostly in poor non-industrial countries. The rest takes place ‘‘downstream’’ during processing, distribution and consumption, mostly in rich industrial countries.

  8. Reducing upstream losses requires training small farmers in poor countries and enabling them to have access to equipment, especially for drying and storage. This can help to gain around 20 to 30% of local agricultural production. This investment can certainly yield more than a chemical inputs-based intensification that would have negative effects on the environment. What would be required is:

  9. Equipment and training on storage of food products

  10. Equipment and training on harvesting.

  11. Reducing wastage requires mainly an effort to inform and train consumers and some change in regulations and distribution practices. What would be required is:

  1. For consumers, information, training and incentives to:

    1. Improve their purchasing behaviour and management of domestic food stocks so as not to have to throw away expired food products

    2. Give priority to the purchase of food that is not excessively packaged or that has an easily degradable packaging

  2. For wholesale traders and retail outlets, at their own initiative or following a change in regulations imposed by the state:

    1. Application of less stringent grading standards

    2. Reduction of excessive and unsustainable packaging

    3. Change in the mode of management of retail marketing to reduce the risk that food products reach their date of expiry (through timely donation to associations and food banks who assist the poor, whether encouraged or not by fiscal incentives)

    4. More flexibility in the regulations on shelf life and ‘‘best-before’’ date

    5. Recycling of expired food products eliminated from the food chain ( for the production of energy and/or compost, etc.; possibly encouraged through tax incentives).

  3. The possibility of establishing a global mechanisms to cut food waste and that could also serve to support anti-hunger actions in poor countries, as proposed by Trueba and MacMillan, should be should be studied in the framework of the CFS and implementation steps designed.

Materne Maetz

(October 2013)

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  2. For more information:

  1. The economic and environmental cost of wasting food on, 2013

  2. FAO, Food wastage footprint - Impacts on natural resources, 2013

  3. FAO, Toolkit - Reducing the food wastage footprint, 2013


Last update:    October 2013

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