An additional one billion people can be fed with current resources if food losses are halved

October 10th, 2012 by Aalto University

Food thrown out by a supermarket in Guernsey (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

More efficient use of the food production chain and a decrease in the amount of food losses will dramatically help maintain the Earth’s natural resources and improve people’s lives.

Aalto University researchers have calculated how many people could be fed by reducing food losses.

They have published their research in the paper ‘Lost food, wasted resources: Global food supply chain losses and their impacts on freshwater, cropland, and fertiliser use‘ in the journal ‘Science of The Total Environment.’

The global human population is an estimated seven billion. An additional one billion can be fed from our current resources, if food losses could be halved. This can be achieved if the lowest loss percentage achieved in any region could be attained globally.

“There isn’t enough clean water everywhere on Earth, significantly more agricultural land cannot be cleared, and certain raw material minerals, such as phosphate, for fertilizers are running low,” Matti Kummu, post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University, said.

Food waste from a supermarket in Guernsey (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

“At the same time, a quarter of the amount of calories in produced food is lost or wasted at different stages of the food production chain, which results in unnecessary resources loss,” he said.

The new study is the first to evaluate the impact of food losses and its relationship to resources on a global scale.

Annually 27 cubic metres of clean water, 0.031 hectares of agricultural land, and 4.3 kilograms of fertilizers per human being is wasted in food losses.

Agriculture uses over 90% of the fresh water consumed by humans and most of the raw materials used in fertilizers.

“More efficient food production and the reduction of food losses are very important matters for the environment as well as for future food security,” Dr Matti Kummu said.

The study estimated the global food losses in terms of kilocalories per person.

Food waste in household rubbish exposed by a herring gull on the streets of St Peter Port (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

As a result of food loss in the food production chain, it was determined that globally 614 kilocalories per person per day are lost. Without this loss, present global food production would yield 2,609 kilocalories of edible food a day for every human. By halving food losses, we could feed 8 billion people with currently used resources.

Researchers from VU University Amsterdam and the University of Bonn also participated in this study.

In addition to Aalto University, the research was funded also by Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry, IWT Flanders and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).


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