A new study has found that one-third of the world’s food is wasted before it ever reaches anyone’s plate.
We all know that we throw out way too much food that’s gone bad in our fridge, but hearing the numbers are staggering: a third of all food goes to waste, 1.3 billion tonnes of food tossed into landfills, and 3 billion people with poor or inadequate diets.
These numbers come from a new report from the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. The panel is made up of current or former world leaders that are passionately against food waste and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development.
The report, made in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), says that a third of all the world’s food (1.3 billion metric tons) either spoils or is thrown away at some point during its journey to consumers.
In poorer countries, food losses can mostly be attributed to issues with harvesting, storage, processing, and transporting food to markets quickly. In richer countries, food losses are mostly at the retail and consumer level, with grocery stores and individuals throwing out spoiled fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Over half the harvest fruits and vegetables in the world are lost before being eaten, while 25% of the world’s meat spoils.
Additionally, the report notes that 3 billion people in the world have poor or inadequate diets and that the combined threats of micronutrient deficiencies, undernutrition and obesity are more dangerous than the threat of infectious diseases like malaria.
The study calls on world leaders to combat food spoilage in a number of ways, including diversifying agriculture and improving the world’s infrastructure.
By diversifying more into grown fruits and vegetables rather than raising cattle, we can combat a lack of appropriate nutrients while also helping the environment. Industrial farming of cattle, pigs, and other animals requires more land than fruits and vegetables and contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s estimated that roughly $1 trillion USD is lost globally due to food waste, or roughly a quarter of the national US budget.