November 12, 2019 / 4:04 PM / 24 days ago

Vatican conference urges governments to tackle food loss and waste

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An international panel of experts backed by Pope Francis appealed to governments on Tuesday to commit to halving food waste and loss by 2030, saying it was morally, economically and environmentally unacceptable.

FILE PHOTO: A woman picks up discarded fruits after a market in Nice, southeastern France, February 3, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

The appeal came at the end of a two-day conference at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences attended by more than 50 scientists, academics, economists, corporate leaders and United Nations officials from 24 countries.

“We call on our leaders, and on all of us, for deepened commitment to action toward halving food loss and waste by 2030 — an achievable goal based on existing knowledge and technology,” a statement said.

As the conference began, the pope tweeted: “We must put an end to the culture of waste, we who pray to the Lord to give us our daily bread. Food waste contributes to hunger and to climate change.”

Generally speaking, food loss refers to what is lost on the way from production to the consumer, including damage in transport or storage.

Food waste is that which is discarded by the consumer, restaurants or supermarkets. In rich countries, households and restaurants prepare large portions, resulting in “plate waste”, leftovers that often go uneaten.

“SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG”

According to research by the British advocacy group WRAP using statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about one third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted.

“Because we know that 800 million people go to sleep every day without food, we have to admit that something is very wrong,” said Yolanda Kakabadse, a former Ecuadorian environment minister.

WRAP’s chief executive Marcus Gover told the conference that about 10 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted in the UK each year, enough to fill St. Peter’s Square to the top of the basilica 10 times over.

He illustrated a study showing that, of 100 potatoes ordered by a London restaurant, only 25 were actually eaten.

Selina Juul, founder of the Denmark-based consumer group Stop Wasting Food, called on governments to establish specific departments to combat food loss, “otherwise the work falls on the shoulders of volunteers and foundations”.

Roy Steiner, senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said waste prevention programmes in the United States had identified 100 million pounds of surplus food each year that could be redistributed to needy families.

The final statement called for better education, behavioural change by consumers, and alliances among governments, business, environmental and religious groups.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones

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