Rome — Urgent collaboration along the entire food chain is needed if the world is to address the problem of food waste and losses, a high-level seminar heard in Rome today.
Everyone has a critical role to play in preventing wastage, from farmers to processors, transporters, retailers and consumers, according to the seminar on combating global food wastage, which was organized by the Italian government on the occasion of World Food Day.
According to a FAO report released last month, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted each year, using up 250 km3 of water and 1.4 billion hectares of land, and adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the earth's atmosphere.
Emma Bonino, Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that while some 840 million people went hungry, food waste was one of the great paradoxes of our times. The squandering of resources required to produce food that was not consumed, and then to dispose of it, was unacceptable, she said.
Some 54 percent of the world's food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, while 46 percent occurs at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.
Improving technology at the start of the food chain, such as providing farmers with better means of storing crops, is as essential as addressing consumer behavior at the other end of the chain in order to reduce wastage, the seminar was told.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva urged governments to recognize that food waste is a major problem, recalling that it also forms a key element in the UN Secretary General's Zero Hunger Challenge.
The fact that food currently lost or wasted would be sufficient to feed two billion people without additional impact on the environment was testament to the size of both the challenge and the opportunity the world was facing, he said.
Expo 2015 will provide an opportunity for countries around the world to focus on the issue of food waste and come up with pioneering solutions, the seminar heard.
Some 140 countries are expected to take part at the event in Milan, Italy, the theme of which will be 'Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life'.
Andrea Orlando, Italy's Minister of Environment and Land and Sea Protection, said he hoped Expo 2015 would provide a platform to stimulate innovative ideas to reduce food waste and losses.
The minister underlined the crucial importance of education as part of a global solution, saying that children need to be helped to understand the value of food as a resource in order to shape the consumer habits of the future.
Beatrice Lorenzin, the Italian Minister of Health, said people needed to be taught how to reuse and recycle food instead of throwing it away, both at the household level and in collective catering facilities such as hospitals, canteens and restaurants.