A latest survey shows that our attitude towards food has cost us a fortune as no one really cares about the food wasted. Deep in Arizona, one lone, but dedicated university researcher spent part of his lifetime organizing his students to count food in, count food out and measure the waste at every stage along the food chain. His findings have been salutary. Of the food we begin with, barely half is ever eaten.
Studies have show that in agriculture, where fields may be ploughed over with food not worth selling after subsidies, and in food processing, food waste costs $20bn a year. Junk from convenience stores adds up to 26 per cent of the food that enters their hands, only to be topped by consumers, who bin a further $43bn worth.
Even the world's leading food bodies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, barely mention the issue, except for some estimates of wastage rates in agriculture, a quarter of a century old, that still rest in the archives. In the absence of information, and thus discussion on how we treat food in the nurturing of our planet, the waste has gone unnoticed and therefore unchecked. Researchers say the results are not only an avoidable economic burden, but also damage to the environment, depletion of world resources, and a contribution to global warming through soil exhaustion, unnecessary fertilizer and water use and excessive landfill use.
Thus researchers say if we are ever to eat more than half the food that we make, it is time to collect the information on food waste, report it, publicise it, campaign, legislate and honour the food-efficient. Where food IS plentiful, there will always be a tendency to waste. But if we can establish the wise use of food as morally sound, and its wastage as the opposite, our planet and we all will end up the richer.