Food Wasted, Food Lost

Footprint and population are growing faster than the Earth’s biocapacity

150 Growth rate percentage

World ecological footprint

World population



World biocapacity















Source: Global Footprint Network, 2013

The average “foodprint” today is at least 0.66 global hectares per person, which corresponds to more than one-third of the Earth’s biocapacity, or about one-fourth of humanity’s Ecological Footprint (calculations based on Global Footprint Network, 2013). Cropland represents the largest portion of the global foodprint (nearly two thirds), while fish consumption makes up about 10 per cent of the overall biocapacity demand of food. Food consumption varies in both amount and composition in different parts of the world. Germans, for example, consume about 3 539 kcal/person/day, with 30 per cent coming from meat and dairy (FAO 2014b). Their “foodprint” of a little over one global hectare per person constitutes 20 per cent of their total Footprint measuring five global hectares per capita. In contrast, lower-income countries typically have smaller per capita Footprints, but a larger percentage devoted to food. Bangladesh, for example, with a food consumption of 2 430 kcal/person/day and only 4 per cent coming from meat and dairy (FAO 2014b), has a “foodprint” of 0.3 global hectares per capita, which is nearly half of its total Footprint of 0.65 global hectares per capita (calculations based on Global Footprint Network 2013).

possible, for a limited time, by depleting stocks of ecological capital (harvesting resources faster than they are regenerated) and/or by exceeding the sink capacity of the biosphere, resulting in the accumulation of waste in the atmosphere, oceans and soil. Overall projections of future human demand on the Earth’s biocapacity, based on aggregating moderate UN scenarios of population growth, food demand and energy use, conclude that by 2050 humanity’s Ecological Footprint would be 2.5 to three times the planet’s biocapacity. It is unclear whether such overuse can be physically achieved, and if it can, how long this level of overshoot can persist (FAO 2002; FAO 2006; UN DESA 2006, WWF et al. 2008). In addition to analyzing the Ecological Footprint by the type of productive area on which demand is being placed, Footprints can also be determined for consumption categories, such as food. The “foodprint” includes all the biocapacity required not only to grow food such as crops, livestock and fish, but also to absorb the emissions from the fossil fuel used to create fertilizer, run farmmachinery, process, transport and store food. The demand for food is amongst the greatest drivers of land use change (Lambin and Meyfroidt 2010). Land use change also adds to humanity’s Footprint through the release of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


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