Food important for tackling climate crisis, poverty, debate hears

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On a global level, about 1.3 billion tonnes of food gets wasted, while one out of every eight people in the world is hungry, and one in three people suffers from food deficiency, the debate heard.

By 2050, the world population will increase to 9.6 billion, which means 60-110% more food will need to be produced compared to current production, Tanja Vidic from the national Statistics Office quoted data by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

But 40% of what is being produced today gets wasted, she warned. “All this suggests we need quality data on food waste, so that efficient measures could be drawn up to prevent this,” she said.

Official statistics shows that in 2018, an average Slovenian produced 68 kilograms of food waste.

Meanwhile, 8% of Slovenian households could not afford a meal containing meat or an equally nutrient vegetarian meal at least every other day in 2018, she warned.

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“Excess food is often thrown away, but this is still edible food that gets wasted only because we bought too much,” said Vesna Leskošek, a professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Work, noting this was a global issue.

“Centuries back, we know cases when tossed away food was exported to the third world to alleviate the problem of poverty, and today we see the same model becoming increasingly topical in the first-world countries,” she said.

Marta Klanjšek Gunde, researcher at the Chemistry Institute, who is in charge of the Eat-circular project aimed at reducing the food imprint, said greenhouse gases were generated in every single phase of food production – from seeds, land, water, fertilisers, labour, to energy and money that are required.

“On the global level we are losing a third of food or even more, which means we’ve lost one third of resources or used them pointlessly, and that we have generated one third of total emissions without any particular effect while the UN estimates that 10% of the population suffers from famine,” she said.

Klanjšek Gunde expects many challenges before cost-efficient and quality food will be available to all, before all food will be produced in a sustainable way, in line with the from-farm-to-fork principle, and before waste food is significantly reduced.

One way to promote these changes is to offer financial incentives, and this is envisaged by the European Green Deal and national strategies, so it should be implemented, she said.

The Chemistry Institute head, Gregor Anderluh, said all stakeholders would need to cooperate, contributing their know-how and strategies, for the EU’s goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050 to be achieved.

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