Monday, January 14, 2013

Big Ag Profits From Food Waste - January 14th, 2013

Almost half of all the food we produce in the world never makes it to a plate. Today, we allow a staggering two billion tons of food to go to waste each and every year. If we eliminated this unnecessary food waste, we could potentially provide 60-100 percent more food to feed the world's growing population.

These are just some of the shocking statistics from a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME), highlighting once again how staggeringly wasteful our food and farming system is. But it's not just simply the food that's going to waste: think about all the wasted energy, water, chemicals and labor that went into producing, transporting, and storing what is ultimately just left to rot.

The IME's new report mirrors a 2011 study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), entitled Global Food Losses and Food Waste: Extent, Causes and Prevention. The FAO found that industrialized countries waste 222 million tons of food every year -- almost equivalent to the annual net food production in sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States alone, we waste more than 29 million tons of food each year. That's enough to fill the 90,000-seat Rose Bowl every day, according to food-waste guru, Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland.

Look around and it's clear that we're not just wasting food by letting it rot or throwing it away. It's a well-known fact that we already produce more than enough food today for everyone to have the nourishment they need to thrive. But while the number of people suffering from chronic hunger increased from under 800 million in 1996 to over one billion in 2009, obesity and diet-related ill health in the West is running out of control. Although the U.S. makes up only five percent of the world's population, we account for almost a third of the world's weight due to obesity. As our diets have changed to incorporate the ever-increasing availability of cheaper meat and dairy products and highly processed food, devastating diet-related diseases -- like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some diet-related cancers -- have reached epidemic levels in the US.

In 2008, 33.8 percent of U.S. adults were diagnosed as clinically obese. One in three people born in 2000 in the U.S. will develop Type 2 diabetes by 2050. Between 1976 and 1980 and 2007 to 2008, obesity among U.S. pre-school age children -- we're talking about kids of just two to five years of age -- increased from five percent to 10.4 percent. During the same period, obesity among six to 11-year-olds increased from 6.5 percent to 19.6 percent, and among 12 to 19-year-olds we saw an increase from five percent to 18.1 percent. According to a study of the national costs attributed to overweight and obese people, medical expenses associated with these conditions alone accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 2006 -- and may have reached as high as $78.5 billion ($92.6 billion in 2002 dollars).

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