Cutting Food Losses Could Feed an Additional Billion People

Crops Corn Field Daytime

If food losses were halved, our current resources could feed an additional one billion people.

A newly published study in Science of the Total Environment is the first to evaluate the impact of food losses and its relationship to resources on a global scale, finding that an additional one billion people can be fed from our current resources if the food losses could be halved.

More efficient use of the food production chain and a decrease in the amount of food losses will dramatically help maintain the planet’s natural resources and improve people’s lives. Researchers at Aalto University have proved a valid estimation, for the first time, of how many people could be fed by reducing food losses.

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

“There isn’t enough clean water everywhere on Earth. Significantly more agricultural land cannot be cleared as well as certain raw material minerals for fertilizers are running low. At the same time, a quarter of the amount of calories in produced food is lost or wasted at different stages of food production chain, which results in unnecessary resources loss,” says Matti Kummu, a post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University.

The new study is the first to evaluate the impact of food losses and its relationship to resources on a global scale. Annually 27 m3 (7,000 gallons) of clean water, 0.031 hectares (0.077 acres) of agricultural land, and 4.3 kilos (9.5 pounds) of fertilizers per every inhabitant in the world is wasted in food losses.

“Agriculture uses over 90 percent of the freshwater 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 future food security,” Kummu adds.

Further, for the first time, the global food losses in terms of kilocalories per person were estimated.

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

This study was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Reference: “Lost food, wasted resources: Global food supply chain losses and their impacts on freshwater, cropland, and fertiliser use” by M. Kummu, H. de Moel, M. Porkka, S. Siebert, O. Varis and P. J. Ward, 29 September 2012, Science of the Total Environment.
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.08.092

The researchers of VU University Amsterdam and the University of Bonn also participated in the research. In addition to Aalto University, the research was also funded by Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry, IWT Flanders and NWO, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

1 Comment on "Cutting Food Losses Could Feed an Additional Billion People"

  1. Madanagopal.V.C. | October 11, 2012 at 9:38 am | Reply

    An indirect method of green revolution is to avoid wasting food which can feed one billion additionally. A good message to be understood and followed. Thank You.

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