Shanghai, China As countries grow richer and diets change, the variety and quantity of foods consumed rise, and one of the many consequences is an increase in food loss and waste, a forum in China’s largest city has heard.
The one-day event, dedicated to finding ways to stem food loss and waste in Shanghai, was co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Bottle Dream, an organization dedicated to social innovation in China.
Six keynote speakers from North America, India and China, along with more than 500 other participants attended the event. Panelists discussed ways to reduce food loss and waste, while an exhibition and lunch, made from blemished foods, were designed to prove that, while not perfect in appearance, many foods thrown away are still tasty and absolutely edible.
Food loss and waste – the enormity of it all
FAO estimates that one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food lost each year. Food losses and waste have a major impact on natural resources, including water, land and energy, and are a drain on labour and capital. Worse still, is their occurrence in a world with nearly 800 million people undernourished.
“Hunger is still one of the most urgent development challenges, even as the world is producing more than enough food,” said Vincent Martin, FAO Representative in China and DPR Korea. “This is why FAO is partnering with governments, the private sector and civil society to enable food systems to reduce the loss and waste in both the developing and the industrialized world.”
The event, designed primarily to raise public awareness about these issues, included influential speakers who shared their experiences and perspectives on food loss and waste through innovative ideas and approaches. The event was Webcast live to millions of interactive viewers.
“We are hoping through these diverse activities, leveraging the influence of these change makers and the power of the Internet, that FAO can reach out to more young people and help them realize the seriousness of this situation while encouraging them to reduce food losses and waste with their own innovative ideas. This will help us become the first generation to achieve zero hunger,” said Martin.
Reducing food waste is a logical priority to help establish a more sustainable pattern of production and consumption the forum heard. Investing in innovation to reduce food loss and waste can also achieve economic, environmental and social dividends, while contributing to food security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
FAO is in the process of establishing an innovation lab, Ag-LabCx, to engage multi-stakeholders for, among other things, the experimentation, prototyping and development of innovative projects related to food systems. Through Ag-LabCx, FAO will promote innovative solutions to food losses and waste and the first session on this topic will be held in mid-June together with Tsinghua University and other partners.