Editorial by: Gert Keiner, Food Industry Segment Leader Europe, Middle East, and Africa – DuPont
How to get sustainable food systems? Ingredients can be sustainable, but that’s not the only answer. Higher yield alone isn’t the right answer. Even government isn’t. There is no one solution. Collaboration is what makes it a food system, and collaboration must drive innovation to make the whole more sustainable than the individual players and their contributions could. As DuPont plays a part in most steps of the agriculture and food chain, we’re particularly committed to this collaboration. Today is World Food Day, and it is “an opportunity to help bring about the future we want.” To get there together, it’s important to lay out what a sustainable food system is, and what it is not.
As the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) says, a food system is made up of the environment, people, institutions, and processes, and it’s what it takes to get food to all of us. And with the global population growing as it is, the systems we use to produce, process, and bring agricultural products to consumers simply must be sustainable.
One common tendency is to think that the answer is local food—shopping close to home, going to a small market. Local systems can sometimes be efficient, but it is not only about eating within a certain radius. Sustainability needs efficiency, and efficiency is really about getting the most out of what you put in. With a global hunger problem, local systems are just one part of the interconnected efforts needed to make sure we can continue producing nutritious food for the future.
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:
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?
If you research the issue in depth, you will find that there are a variety of definitions for the term “food security.”
At DuPont, we believe food security exists when all people at all times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary need and food preferences for a healthy and active life.
View the video below as I discuss the role of science in achieving Food Security: