A group suggesting that governments and the United Nations partner with engineers to reduce food waste through improved technology, efficiency and the changing of consumer perceptions has highlighted data which shows between 30 and 50 percent of food produced around the world is not eaten, prompting a church environmental adviser to call the news a "wake up call."
The report "Global Food – Waste Not, Want Not" released on Thursday by the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMECHE) says reasons for the food waste are due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer wastage.
IMECHE cited a 2008 report from the Stockholm International Water Institute and a 2011 United Nation's Food Agriculture Organization report.
"It is estimated that 30-50 percent (or 1.2-2 billion tones) of all food produced on the planet is lost before reaching a human stomach," said Dr. Tim Fox, head of IMECHE's Energy & Environment division.
Reacting the report, David Shreeve, the Church of England's national environmental adviser, drew attention to the church's efforts to raise awareness about food waste.
"Today's news that half of the world's food ends up being thrown away is a wake up call for us all," he said. "The Church of England, through its Shrinking the Footprint campaign, is committed to working on issues of food waste. The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, chair of Shrinking the Footprint, has taken a lead, working closely with the Feeding the 5000 campaign in highlighting the importance of cutting food waste."
In the report, IMECHE notes that UN estimates indicate that there will be 9.5 billion people on earth by 2075, about 3 billion more than the current population.
The group says that the figure does not reflect that large amounts of land, energy, fertilizers and water have also been lost in the production of foodstuffs which simply end up as waste.
"This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands," the report states.
The report indicates the different groups around the world will need to address different issues surrounding waste. The groups include fully developed, late-stage developing and newly developing countries.
While less developed nations, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia suffer from wastage at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain, more developed nations find more problems based on deficiencies in regional and national infrastructure.
The organization urged the UN's FAO to work with engineers to ensure developed nations help developing countries gain design and technology know-how.
It also suggested that governments of rapidly developing countries incorporate waste minimization thinking into the transport infrastructure and storage facilities currently being planned, engineered and built.
Another recommendation is for governments in developed nations to devise and implement policies that changes consumer expectations. The group says the policies should "discourage retailers from wasteful practices that lead to the rejection of food on the basis of cosmetic characteristics, and losses in the home due to excessive purchasing by consumers."