FAO Assesses Food Waste Impacts on Land, Climate, Water and Biodiversity

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) has released a study documenting the environmental impacts of global food wastage as well as its direct economic impacts, which it reports add up to $750 billion annually.

The study provides a global account of the environmental footprint of food wastage (both food loss and food waste) along the food supply chain, focusing on impacts on climate, water, land and biodiversity. It includes a tool-kit that documents how food loss and waste can be reduced. FAO stresses the moral issue of 870 million people going hungry while 1/3 of all food produced goes to waste.

The study indicates that food waste is responsible for 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making food wastage rank as the third top emitter, after the US and China. It notes that 54% of wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, and 46% of wastage occurs during processing, distribution and consumption, with production losses occurring most in developing countries, and consumption losses highest in high and middle income countries.

Hotspots of food wastage identified in the report are: wastage of cereals in Asia, with impacts on carbon, blue water and arable land; wastage of meat in high income regions and Latin America; fruit wastage with blue water impacts in Asia, Latin America, and Europe; and vegetables wastage in industrialized Asia, Europe, and South and South East Asia, with a high carbon footprint.

The study calls for reducing food wastage through better planning and addressing post-harvest loss, as well as by finding secondary markets and diverting excess food to livestock feed. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is a partner of the FAO in the Think Eat Save-Reduce Your Foodprint campaign.