Pena: Food waste and Climate Change

WASTING food is bad enough. That wasted food contributing to climate change makes it worst. It’s a double whammy. So many people are going hungry, and the world is grappling to halt or limit the warming of our only planet Earth.

World leaders are currently at the COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, Poland. Pledges on carbon cuts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees will be made or affirmed. Commitments will comprise mostly of cutting down on the use of fossil fuels like coal. A minor but important source of greenhouse gas, food waste, will not likely take the limelight.

Yes, food waste also contributes to global warming. The latest report from the lntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) titled “Climate Change and Land” estimates that loss and waste of food caused between 8 and 10 percent of the emissions of the gases responsible for global warming in the period 2010-2016.

When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.

A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) data revealed that one-third of food produced in the world yearly “gets lost or wasted. That’s around 1.3 billion tons. Around 931 million tons of food sold, or 17 percent of total food available in 2019, went into waste bins of households, retailers, and food establishments. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization explained that reversing the trend would preserve enough food to feed 2.1 billion individuals in the world.

In the Philippines, 1,717 metric tons of food is wasted each day, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology said. Likewise, the International Rice Research Institute said P23 million worth of rice is wasted daily, enough to feed 4.3 million individuals.

Governments can do a lot to reduce food waste. Here in the Philippines, the House of Representatives has approved House Bill No. 7956, or the “Food Surplus Reduction Act,” a bill that would reduce food wastage through the donation or recycling of excess edible food. A counterpart bill would have to be passed at the Senate for it to become a law.

By the way, food loss and food waste are technically two different problems. Food loss happens before food products reach supermarkets, restaurants and other retail outlets. It occurs during harvesting, transport, processing. Food waste occurs at the retail level or in stores, homes and restaurants.

House Bill 7956 addresses only food waste. I suggest that Congress should also take a look at avoiding food loss due to product labels such as expiry dates, best before, consume before, which confuses consumers and result in wasted food. The Department of Agriculture meanwhile can initiate programs that will reduce wastage during harvest and processing. Individuals and households can help avoid food waste in the kitchen and at the dining table.


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