Although the report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was greeted with shock and horror, the news that half of all food produced is wasted is actually a source of optimism. The point is that it is easier to fix than most other ways of producing extra food. Much is wasted in developing countries between farm and consumer because it is stored or transported badly, with some of it consumed by pests or allowed to rot. In the developed world there are over-zealous sell-by dates and a reluctance by retailers to take misshapen vegetables, or a tendency to promote over-buying by generous two-for-one offers.
All of this is much more easily redressed than trying to increase the output of food. If we attend to the wastage we can double the world’s supply of food without planting an extra acre. So there is no incentive to cut down rainforests or to engage in more intensive farming, no need for extra pesticides and fertilizers. All we have to do is stop wasting what we already produce. The remedy is better storage, more efficient transport, and better protection against pests and moulds. In the developed world we can learn how to keep food for longer by efficient storage, and use the badly-shaped vegetables in prepared food. In carrot and coriander soup, no-one cares what the carrots looked like.
So the news about food wastage gives us reason go suppose that out food supply problems will be relatively easy to solve. We can feed the future population with a smaller footprint on the planet than some had supposed.
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