Growing food to consume and to feed animals that people eat is the largest use of Earth’s fresh water supply yet almost a third of the world’s food is lost or wasted before it reaches consumers’ mouths, according to a short film launched at World Water Week in Stockholm.
“Taste the Waste of Water” by Germany’s Valentin Thurn was shown at the Stockholm event, which is focused this year on how to use less water to feed the planet and wraps up tomorrow.
McKinsey & Co. estimates the global economy wastes $252 billion annually on food that’s grown, processed or shipped and never eaten, mainly in Europe and North America. That’s a third of the world’s supply, or 1.3 billion tons of food that could feed the hungry. “What kind of corporate management would accept 33 percent in annual losses,” the film narrator asks.
Throwing away a single apple in effect means wasting as much water as flushing the average toilet seven times. Tossing out a liter (quart) of milk is equivalent to wasting 1,000 liters of water needed for the cows and to grow their feed. Overall it takes 2,400 liters of water through the production and supply chain to make a hamburger, said the film, which relies on data from groups including the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the consultant McKinsey.
Curbing food waste would also reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the amount of energy wasted growing food that’s never eaten, the film said. Cutting food waste by 50 percent would have the same effect on global warming as taking half the world’s cars off the roads.
Among the film’s prescriptions for reducing the amount of food wasted is improved access to markets for developing-world farmers, reviewing sell-by dates on packaged foods so less gets thrown out and coaxing people in the developed world to eat less.
There are more people around the world who overeat than who starve, the film said. “From field to fork, our food supply chain has lots of leaks.”