Love Food Hate Waste

The global food crisis is currently affecting more than one-sixth of the world’s population. The number of people suffering from starvation and undernourishment is increasing at an alarming rate and will continue to increase if a solution is not found soon. The food scarcity being experienced throughout the world is caused by many factors including urbanization, climate change, population increase, and much more. One of the biggest factors playing a part in the global food crisis is food waste. Approximately one-third of all food grown for human consumption throughout the world is wasted, estimating to a total of 1.3 billion tons of food waste each year. Global food waste can be seen at several different levels of production such as farming, packaging and transportation, distribution, and yes, your very own kitchen table. Food waste can be defined as the waste of bought or grown food that is not consumed due to underlying causes. For this paper, I will specifically be talking about food waste at the farming, distribution, and consumption level. Food waste at the farming, distribution, and consumption level of production is a widespread issue facing our world today because of factors such as overproduction, the culling ugly produce, climate change, use-by and sell-by dates, and the USDA. Therefore, I propose an end to food waste at these different levels of production by implementing the use of ugly produce grocery stores, better waste management, genetically modified organisms, and changes in the grading standards of the USDA.

Food Waste at the Farming Level

While most food waste comes from the consumption and distribution levels of production, a significant amount is wasted at the farming-level. Food waste at the farming level of production is due to many factors such as overproduction, culling, and climate change. In industrialized countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, food gets wasted when production exceeds demand (Cederberg, Gustavsson, Meybeck, Otterdijk, Sonesson, 2011, p10).

Climate Change

Climate change can be defined as a “”change in global or regional climate patterns.”” In relation to food waste, climate change can cause an increase in cosmetic defects we see in produce. The continual increase in global temperatures will have harmful effects on food production around the world, which will increase the hardship on the individuals who are already suffering from food insecurity. The IPCC acknowledges that increase in food demand combined with the possibility of global temperatures rising approximately 4 degrees Celsius or more, could bring about risks to food insecurity worldwide (Moore, 2017, p. 499).

Solutions: Genetically Modified Organisms. (have not written yet)

Overproduction

Due to issues such as climate change, farmers feel the need to overproduce and create a surplus crop. Overproduction exhausts limited resources and floods the market with cheap products. We have seen in the past that agricultural overproduction is not beneficial to our environment or our economy. Back in the 1930s and early 1940’s agricultural overproduction was one of the main causes of the Great Depression. Farms were producing more crops than the people could afford to buy, which caused the prices for farm products to decline to result in the foreclosure of farms because the farmers could not afford to pay off bank loans. This was also a time of one of the worst droughts in American history, causing major crop loss and environmental damages. Farmers were over tilling the land trying to produce enough crop to sell and make a profit, but the drought was so intense all the farmers were tilling up was dust. This caused what we know as the “”Dust Bowl”” in the Great Plains and was also one of one of the most devastating environmental disasters the U.S. has ever seen. As a result of overproduction and the drought, many of the farmers’ crops went to waste because they either had to be thrown out because they couldn’t be sold, or they were damaged because of the weather.

From what history has taught us, you would think that farms and factories would realize that overproduction is not the most suitable idea when trying to meet supply and demand. Farmers who have contracts with supermarkets usually grow more food than they are expected of to account for the proportion that will be lost due to weather, pests, and crops that are not seen as cosmetically pleasing.

Solution: Better Waste Management. A percentage of food is going to be wasted no matter what, whether it is because of environmental factors, pests, rotting, etc. The many issues associated with food waste, specifically at the farming-level, include environmental problems, lack of education regarding food waste management, and the improper disposal of food waste. Waste that is dumped into our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams has a negative impact on our environment. Some post-harvest residue is even left on the ground to degrade, which grow weeds and can have an adverse effect on crops that will there in the future. One of the most commonly used forms of post-harvest waste management is burning, which can have very bad effects on ones’ environment and health. These negative effects might include depletion of our ozone layer, damage to soil, and smoke inhalation for those who might live nearby (Adeoye, Adebayo, Musa, 2011, p. 428-433). As previously mentioned, some waste is inevitable, because of this inevitability we need to have more efficient waste management practices. The authors of Agricultural Post-Harvest Waste Generation and Management for Selected Crops in Minna, Niger State, North Central Nigeria (2011) include a list of recommended waste management practices in their article. The suggestions include that large amounts of crop waste can be turned into feed or hay for the local farm animals; crop waste can be incinerated, which would emit hot gas used to operate turbines and produce electricity; crop waste can be turned into briquettes (compressed coal) to be used for fuel; crop waste can also be worked into the soil to function as manure. These authors believe that waste management should be a vital part of the farm production system in order to evade ecological consequences that can result from insufficient waste management (p.434).

Culling of Ugly Produce

The culling of ugly produce is another one of the many reasons why farmers overproduce. Culling can be defined as “”the removal of products based on quality or appearance criteria, including specifications for size, color, weight, blemish level, and Brix (a measure of sugar content) (Moore, 2017, p. 508-509). The biggest reason for culling is the appearance of produce. Farmers have to throw out most of their crop because it is deemed “”ugly”” and “”unmarketable.”” Grocery stores refuse to buy foods that do not meet their marketing standards, so fruits and veggies that are deformed or scarred are turned away and usually end up going to waste. In a TED talk from Tristam Stuart (2012) titled The Global Food Waste Scandal, he spoke of a farmer who had invested 16,000 pounds in growing spinach, but not a single leaf was harvested because there was a small amount of grass growing in amongst it. Incidences like this one are ludicrous and unnecessary factors concerning food waste. A report from the ReFED considers the possible impacts of reducing “”ugly produce”” waste and found that 266,000 tons of food could be kept from being wasted each year if initial steps are taken (Moore, 2017, p. 509). The culling of ugly produce is unnecessary and thankfully it is a problem that can be fixed with a simple solution.

Solution: Ugly Produce Grocery Stores. (have not written yet)

Food Waste at the Distribution Level

(have not written yet)

USDA Standards

In Moore’s view “”an agricultural system which culls a significant amount of cosmetically unappealing but edible produce and is facing potentially substantial decreases in total yield due to a changing climate, a government program which incentivizes the waste of edible food should be changed”” (Moore, 2017, p. 514). In other words, Moore believes if the USDA changed their grading criteria of fruits and vegetables by focusing more on the safety standards and less on the cosmetic standards, this could help reduce the amount of culled produced significantly.

Use by/Sell by dates (have not written yet)

Solution: Changes to the Grading Standards of USDA. Moore argues that the USDA should revise its grading standards on produce to decrease the number of fruits and vegetables that are culled due to their appearance. He suggests that the USDA should keep the standards for safety criteria such as rotting, and parasites, but exclude the cosmetic standards (p. 514).

Food Waste at the Consumer Level

(have not written yet)

Counterarguments

In the discussion of ugly produce grocery stores, one controversial issue has been that consumers may not want to purchase produce that is not cosmetically pleasing.

Conclusion

Food loss in a hungry world is undoubtedly a problem.

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