Addressing Global Food Waste

DuPont along with many other companies, NGOs and organizations are hard at work researching ways to feed the world’s ever-growing population.  One of the ways to have an immediate effect on food security is addressing global food waste.  A recent study conducted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK) reported that “roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year.”

The study revealed that on a per-capita basis, industrialized countries waste more food than the developing world.  Developing countries end up losing food post-harvest due to poor infrastructure, storage and packaging.

The issue of food waste reaches beyond uneaten food to environmental stewardship, and infrastructure.  If the world can solve the problem of food waste, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut down on water usage, decrease stress on the land, and allow producers and consumers to save money.

According to a recent report conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 40% of food (about $165 billion worth) in the United States goes to waste.  The report pointed to a variety of causes of waste in the U.S. such as oversized portions in meals, overstocked restaurants and grocery stores, and the overall affordability of food products that consumers buy.  NRDC’s research highlights that up to one-in-seven truckloads of perishables delivered to U.S. grocery stores is thrown away.

In 2009, an UN Food and Agriculture Organization project in Afghanistan reduced post-harvest food waste from about 20% to less than 2% by installing 18,000 household-sized metallic silos.  These silos protected harvested food from wildlife, bacteria, harsh weather and other elements that historically ruined produce.

The NRDC proposes a number of simple solutions to address food waste including:food waste

  • Re-evaluate and update food labels to clarify the significant difference between“sell-by” and “use-by” dates.
  • Change “buy-one-get-one-free” promotions to “buy-one-get-one-later” coupons.
  • Discourage the use of food trays in cafeteria which have led people to bring less food to their table.
  • Promote smaller portion sizes at a discounted prize in restaurants.

Addressing food waste at every stage of the production and distribution process is vital as our world grapples with food security. What are some of your ideas on solving this growing global issue?

Highlights from the Food Security Index Launch

Last month, leaders from DuPont, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), government agencies, the agriculture community and other related parties came together to launch the Global Food Security Index (GFSI).  Speakers at the launch events—held simultaneously in Washington, DC, USA; Brussels, Belgium; São Paulo, Brazil; and Johannesburg, South Africa—all agreed that food security is an international challenge that must be addressed with a collaborative approach.

Unlike other indices, the Global Food Security Index, developed by the EIU and sponsored exclusively by DuPont, transcends politics and agricultural production to investigate the fundamental issues of affordability, availability, and quality and safety among various issues of concern.  This new index provides a way for food producers, farmer organizations, NGOs, governments and the private sector around the world to investigate and develop programs that will make a lasting impact.

Washington, DC, USA

Anthony Farina at the Food Security Index Launch in Washington, D.C.

To start the international launch event, director of DuPont Global Public Affairs, Anthony Farina, introduced the need for such a tool.  Farina described how DuPont, working with others from around the world, identified the need for a common, universal tool to drive precision and accountability around food security efforts. This led to the collaboration between DuPont and the EIU to develop the new Global Food Security Index.

“This new tool,” describes DuPont Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman, “will help us around the world measure the many aspects of food security, providing a common language to discuss what needs to be done. Our hope is that the Global Food Security Index will promote collaborations across the food value chain, generating insights and most importantly, stimulating action.”

Ellen Kullman at the Food Security Index Launch in Washington, D.C.

Brussels, Belgium

Paolo De Castro, member of European Parliament, opened the launch in Brussels by

emphasizing the challenge of food insecurity. “We are in a new era of scarcity. We have moved from abundance to scarcity. And it’s not a question of demography – increasing population – it’s a question of income and affordability. It’s a question of volatility.”

James Borel, executive vice president at DuPont, described the GFSI as a comprehensive means for organizations with different perspectives to “zero-in” on a variety of issues within the food security system and makes an impact.  “The FSI is a tool, not a solution. We need tools to reach a solution.”

Paolo De Castro & Jim Borel at the Food Security Index Launch in Brussels, Belgium

São Paulo, Brazil

Ricardo Vellutini, president of DuPont Brazil, related the problem of food security to his

Ricardo Vellutini at the Food Security Index Launch in Sao Paulo, Brazil

country’s development. “In Brazil, for example, we see a promising scenario with a growing middle class, which today accounts for 54 percent of the population… Until recently [the Brazilian people] were not part of the so-called ‘basic basket of goods.’ However, what are we doing to ensure healthier and more nutritious foods for these families?”

Former agricultural minister Robert Rodrigues noted the beneficial uses of the GFSI, stating, “This index can show governments how they can change and move up their ranking. It allows for cleaner policy prescriptions.”

Robert Rodrigues at the Food Security Index Launch in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Johannesburg, South Africa

Craig Binetti, president of DuPont Nutrition and Health, stated, globally “we will commit $10 billion to R&D [research and development] and 4,000 new products will be introduced.” Moreover, through collaborations and investments to strengthen agricultural systems—especially in regards to making food more available, nutritious and culturally appropriate—DuPont aims to improve the livelihoods of at least three million farmers and their rural communities, according to Binetti.

Craig Binetti at the Food Security Index Launch in Johannesburg, South Africa

Already inspired by the efforts of many organizations and individuals, we want to work together with you.  Please share your thoughts about the index by leaving us a comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!

Global Food Security in the spotlight at the Indiana State Fair

Last Friday, I spent the morning with industry leaders, U.S. farmers and DuPont employees at the Indiana State Fair. We were on hand for the opening of the DuPont Food Pavilion.

It’s always encouraging to hear people of all walks of life talk about the challenge of feeding the world and the important role farmers play in meeting that challenge head-on. Indiana’s Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman, David Lowe, farmer and Vice President of the Indiana Soybean Alliance, as well as Andre Lacey, Chair of the Indiana State Fair Commission, each touched on the importance of collaboration at many levels to help solve world hunger.

Many people from a variety of organizations need to be engaged in this work. The collective efforts of many are a crucial factor as we address world hunger.

Every day I’m reminded of the positive role farmers play in this challenge of global food security and visiting with our employees and farmers on the ground in Indiana brought that home again. Solutions have to be focused on the local farmer to truly drive sustainable, tangible benefits.

- Jim Borel

Executive Vice President, DuPont