Impressive work by FAO earlier this month with the release of the Summary Report – Food Wastage Footprint – Impacts on Natural Resources ( http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i3347e.pdf ) This report builds on FAO’s prior report from 2011 — Global Food Losses and Food Waste: Extent, Causes, and Prevention ( http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf ) from 2011 — and provides more detail on the environmental dimensions of food waste. The report provides some compelling graphs and statistics on the impact of food waste on climate (in terms of greenhouse gas emissions), water usage, and land use. Three key points from the report stand out. First, if treated as a country, global food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases — second only to China and the United States, and followed by Russia and India. Second, in terms of the blue water footprint (the total amount of freshwater used directly or indirectly to produce a product as defined by the Water Footprint Network), global food waste (again if treated as a country) would exceed all countries in terms of consumption of water for agricultural products. Third, in terms of land use, the total amount of food wastage (in 2007 data) totaled about 1.4 billion hectares — or close to one-third of the world’s agricultural land area. Ranked as a country, this puts food waste second in size only to Russia.
These statistics — along with much other valuable information in the report — show the urgency with which the world must act to address the myriad problems associated with global food waste. Not only must we make take steps to alter our food system to capture and redistribute excess food to nearly one billion in need across the planet, but we must act to reduce the highly substantial environmental impact of food waste to ensure that we have the resources and capability to produce enough food to feed nine billion people by 2050 and beyond. With this report, FAO has provided a critically valuable follow-up to its earlier report on food waste — another wake-up call. It is time for countries across the globe to view global food waste not only as a danger — but also as a unique opportunity to create a more secure world through increased food security and reduced environmental impact.