ROME — Marking the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste for the first time since its inception, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Tuesday launched a call to action to tackle what it called “the big challenge of our time.”
Despite the restrictive conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic, a comprehensive conference brought together officials and experts from the FAO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), other UN agencies, and country representatives in a virtual debate. They were tasked with exchanging knowledge and practices, boosting awareness on the roots and impact of the food loss and waste issue, and with helping keep the global community focused on the target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This specific target requires countries to halve the per-capita global food waste at retail and consumer level, and cut the losses along the production and supply chains by 2030.A key message from the conference was that everyone — from public authorities to private entities, and from academia to single citizens — must do more to reduce food loss and waste, or “risk an ever greater drop in food security and in natural resources,” the FAO said. In his opening address, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu urged for stronger partnership among all stakeholders “to scale-up innovative technologies and approaches.”
“Innovative postharvest treatment, digital agriculture and food systems, and re-modelling market channels offer huge potential to tackle the challenges of food loss and waste,” Qu stressed.
The FAO chief also warned awareness on this problem must begin from the bottom. “We must start with our families, educating our children to respect and appreciate food. Reducing food loss and waste is our collective, shared responsibility,” Qu said.
Experts also warned the COVID-19 was putting global value chains at risk, exposing the fragility of the most vulnerable communities of each society, which have proved those worst impacted.
“Food loss and waste is an ethical outrage,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his key speech, recalling how 690 million people continue to go hungry in a world that would actually have enough food to feed everyone.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the fragility of our food systems, and worsen food loss and waste in many countries,” Guterres said, urging governments to set a reduction target aligned with the SDG 12, and to “act boldly” to cut their food waste.
The benefits from tackling the issue concretely were many and varied for countries, as UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen noted. “By including food loss and waste and sustainable diets in revised climate plans, policymakers can improve their mitigation and adaptation from food systems by as much as 25 percent,” she said.
Beside officials from the various UN agencies, including the World Food Organization (WFP), key speakers comprised representatives from Turkey, Argentina, Andorra, San Marino, the European Union, Egypt, Brazil, and Sudan.The first marking of the Int’l Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste took place during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. The international date was declared in a resolution adopted by the Assembly in December 2019.