UN lauds China on food waste efforts
Updated: 2013-09-20 15:43
By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily)
China is showing the rest of the world how to cut food waste, a United Nations official said.
David Nabarro, special representative of the UN secretary general for food security and nutrition, said in an interview Thursday that China has grasped far more quickly than some developed nations that "food is cash", valuing it not just by its market value, but also by the environmental costs of producing and bringing it to consumers. His comments followed his participation in a panel discussion on reducing food waste, on the sidelines of a UN business forum in Manhattan.
"China's leaders, they're walking the walk and not just talking the talk. And that really impresses me," Nabarro told China Daily. "Let them show the rest of us how you get this right. It's doing it decades quicker than the rest of the world has done it."
The panel was held after last week's report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that about one third of all food produced for humans is lost or wasted. The report also found that food that is produced but thrown away before being eaten - termed "wastage" - drains nearly $750 billion a year from the global economy. In what FAO said was a first for a research report, the study emphasized the environmental impacts of food wastage, finding that the problem is the third-largest producer of greenhouse gases after the United States and China.
The report identified waste of grains in "industrial Asia", including China, as having "major impacts" on the carbon footprint,, fresh surface and groundwater and arable land. Rice represents a "significant share" of the impacts, owing to the high carbon intensity of rice production methods.
The report also identified waste in vegetable production, handling, storage and consumption as a major issue. The high vegetable wastage figure in this region of Asia is attributed to its accounting for more than 50 percent of both world production and consumption, according to the report.
As China enjoys increased prosperity, food waste and its impact have become a major issue. According to WorldWatch Institute, more than $32 billion of food is thrown away in China annually, although 128 million Chinese live below the poverty line and often lack sufficient food.
Beijing started implementing garbage sorting and food scrap recycling in 2000. In March 2012, the Beijing Municipal Garbage Management Ordinance came into force, encouraging communities and households to participate in kitchen waste recycling.
Nabarro emphasized the importance of conveying that ending food waste is "everybody's responsibility."
"Don't blame people," he said in an interview. "It's not just the consumer. It's right up and down the chain.
"It's what happens on the farm, or even before the farm, it's getting water or fertilizers or other goodies to the farm. Then it's on the farm or in the fish pond or in the cowshed. And then next step is it's in the processing chain. And then it's the retail place, not just supermarkets, but actually all aspects of retailing and then it's in the home.
He stressed the value of social activism aimed at "bringing everybody together to value food properly."
"That's how we turn something into a real commitment, from schoolkids through to employees of companies through the government people," he said. "This is never a blame game. It's the other way around.
"I hate the term, leftover. It's nothing to do about that. It's about renewing, it's about valuing. It's about real positive elements. It's not about taking our waste and giving it to charities. That's only half the story."
Sharon Brennen-Haylock, director of the FAO's New York office, said "If we reduce loss and waste, we'll have more food available without the need to produce more and thereby ease pressure on our precious natural resources."
(China Daily USA 09/20/2013 page1)