Food Wasted, Food Lost

Diet composition

Developed countries

Other Sugars Fats and oils


North Africa

Animal-source foods Fruits and vegetables Pulses Roots and tubers Cereals

Latin America and the Caribbeans

Sub-Saharan Africa

Contributions to total dietary energy supplies Kilocalories per day


3 500 3 000



2 500

2 000

1 500

1 000



Source: FAO, The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2012

Further, degradation of ecosystems, through soil erosion, salinization and chemical and biotic stresses is blamed for losses in potential food yields. Soil erosion, which is the most common form of land degradation, is responsible for an annual loss of topsoil on about 10 million hectares of cropland globally, a rate that is 10 to 40 times greater than the rate of soil renewal (Pimentel 2006). Using conservative average yields of grain, climatologist Bo R. Döös (1994) estimated that at least 5 million tonnes in grain production could be lost every year due to the loss of topsoil on 10 million hectares of agricultural land through erosion. Such losses in potential food production are significant given that humans get the majority of their food calories from the land (Pimentel 2006). A rough estimate suggests that the losses can cover the annual calorie needs of 24 million people. 4 Salinization, which results in the accumulation of salts in the soil, is common on irrigated lands and results in the abandonment of as much as 2 million hectares of land in the world per year (FAO 1991). This loss of agricultural land could result in food grain losses of 3 million tonnes per year (Döös 1994) enough to feed 14.3 million people annually. 5 Salinization is a major problem in low-lying coastal areas

year to produce food that is wasted. Food loss and waste are therefore not only about lost calories for human consumption, but also about the loss of resources put into growing food that isnever consumedaswell as the degradationof the ecosystems throughout the food supply chain. It takes between 5 000 to 20 000 litres of water to produce one kilogramme of meat. If meat is never consumed, the water used to produce the meat is wasted (Lundqvist et al. 2008). Some agricultural practices threaten biodiversity, causing land conversion processes such as deforestation. About 80 per cent of deforestation is due to agricultural expansion (Kissinger et al. 2012). Estimates from the FAO (2013b) suggest that 66 per cent of threats to species are due to agriculture. Further, about 28 million tonnes of fertilizers are used annually to produce food that is lost and wasted (Lipinski et al. 2013), which may cause eutrophication of nearby water ecosystems. On the larger scale, food loss and waste are causing significant greenhouse gas emissions along the food supply chain (FAO 2013b) and therefore become a contributor to climate change. Food waste in landfill sites, for example, produces methane gas, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (FAO 2012c). Food loss thus degrades the vital base that food production relies on, decreasing the ecosystem’s productivity and hence its ability to produce high yields.

4 & 5. Estimates of additional people to be fed are based on findings from Döös (1994), average calories from cereals, as well as average daily calorie needs for people.


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