Globally, about 14 percent of the food produced is lost between harvest and retail. In addition, approximately 17 percent of total production is wasted in households, food services, and retail trade, according to data from the United Nations (UN).
In addition, those that are lost and not used account for 38 percent of total energy use in the global system. "This is absurd because to produce the food we use water, land, energy, labor, and generation of greenhouse gases," says the head of the University Program for Sustainable Food (PUAS) of the UNAM, Maria Elena Trujillo Ortega.
Reflecting on the International Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day, proposed by the UN to be commemorated on September 29, she agreed with the world body that it is necessary to avoid the paradox of hunger in this context, in a world where the number of people affected has slowly increased since 2014.
The issue is serious when we talk about the part that is wasted in harvesting and production, it is 14 percent of what is intended to generate, and that represents thousands of tons undone by rodents or hurricanes. The waste is 17 percent and we participate in it by throwing away food at home and in restaurants, by leaving it on the plate when it is abundant or in the refrigerator, Trujillo Ortega specifies.
One thing is what is lost and another what is wasted. The two situations are equally serious; they add up to 31 percent of what is produced. We must have responsible, conscious, and balanced consumers considers the head of PUAS.
Addressing the issue of sustainable food, she abounds that UNAM's PUAS proposes to bring together research from different fields and be in balance with food sustainability.
"Some professionals see agricultural or livestock production, but we must also contemplate biology and the environment because production has an effect on the soil, air, and water," she emphasizes.
The sustainable part also involves the social aspect, because we must take care of the distribution and equity of food, which must reach all people, especially those living in poverty.
Another aspect is the human aspect, anthropology, where we have traditions and customs that we must take care of. "We have to take care of all this to be able to have a sustainable food, whose production considers all the areas mentioned," she says.
In its first linkage work, PUAS has scientific committees that bring together specialists from different areas, who work collegially to make sustainability the transversal axis in the production and distribution of food.
"A food is going to be correctly produced under production systems that take into account the environment, production, social and humanitarian aspects, in order to clearly satisfy the routes of the food we are producing," she explains.
International Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day provides an opportunity for a call to action for both the public sector (national or local authorities) and the private sector (businesses and individuals) to set priorities and move forward with innovation to reduce the problem, to restore and rebuild for the better, and to build resilient food systems.
The UN argues that our food systems cannot be resilient if they are not sustainable. Hence the need to focus on adopting integrated approaches designed to reduce loss and waste.
It adds that global and local action is essential to make the best use of the inputs we produce. Technologies, innovative solutions (including e-commerce platforms for marketing, and mobile and retractable food processing systems), new ways of working, and best practices for managing nutrient quality are key to this transformative change.
We must have responsible, conscious, and balanced consumers: María Elena Trujillo Ortega.
To produce food, water, land, energy, labor, and greenhouse gases are used, she warns.
The UN considers that food systems cannot be resilient if they are not sustainable.
September 29, International Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day.