World Wastes Almost Half of All Food Produced

July 17, 2015 Health E-News

By Ayanda Mkhwanazi

Every slice of bread or banana wasted also carries a cost in terms of the resources including water and land used to produce it, warned Professor Linus Opara from Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of AgriSciences.

“When you throw away a banana because it has gone frot, you do not realise how much it actually cost to the environment to produce it,” Opara said. “Our current food system is sick, it is making our environment and planet sick because of the huge impact it has on our agriculture.”

Opara was speaking at the Johannesburg launch of a joint report on the state of the planet’s health yesterday. Produced by the Rockefeller Foundation and a commission organised by The Lancet medical journal, the report argues that environmental degradation has reached unprecedented levels and that humanity is living beyond the earth’s means.

“We are seeing people living longer now (and) poverty has been reduced but it comes at the destruction and cost of our planet”

“The energy demand has spiraled, we have seen water scarcity and usage increasing, there has been a decline in crop production mainly driven by water losses and we are seeing a dramatic loss of forestry,” said Derek Yach, head of Discovery Health’s Vitality Institute. “We are seeing people living longer now (and) poverty has been reduced but it comes at the destruction and cost of our planet”. Discovery Health hosted the report’s launch.

The report estimates that by 2050, about 40 percent of the world’s population could be living under severe water stress. The report warns that if people do not change the way they eat, climate change could lead to an additional 250,000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050.

“We need a change in attitude, behaviour and consumption,” Opara said. “Do not over buy (and) start by educating people and our children from an early age. Money alone will not resolve this.”

The report also recommends that the world change the way food is produced more broadly by for instance reducing waste, encouraging diversified diets and addressing both under- and over-nutrition. The report also encourages governments to look at taxing polluters and reducing subsidies to harmful industries.


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