food wastage

Food waste: Why should we fight against it?

Why has there been such a keen interest in recent years in the fight against food waste? Certainly there is a moral dimension to the fight against throwing away food, a good that we have been taught to respect since ancient times when it was scarce. It is precisely because this good is no longer rare that it has lost its value and is being wasted. But why should it be given back its value, a reminder that it should be respected and not wasted?
An analysis by Nicolas Bricas for the Unesco Chair for World Food Security.
Ct is in no way to allow those who are hungry to eat better. The planet does not lack food; on the contrary, it produces far more than it needs. And it is precisely for this reason, because there is abundance, that food has lost its value and is being wasted. And since the problem of hunger in the world is not a problem of food availability but of poverty, it is not because less is wasted that the poor will eat more or better.
Giving unsold food to the poor is a very degrading act for the "beneficiaries". It is an act in which the donor takes control of the recipient. A person at the RSA who asks for chocolate at a food bank very often shocks volunteers who consider that, if he or she is poor, that person must eat first to stay healthy and not for his or her own pleasure. They deprive them of the freedom to choose how to eat; they deprive them of their right to pleasure in order to give priority to what they themselves consider to be a priority for the poor: health. During the horse lasagna crisis, there was talk of giving food aid in the form of lots withdrawn from sale. The argument was that these lots were not dangerous to health and were as good tasting as beef lasagne. But what was unworthy to be consumed by all became edible by the poor, denying them their right to eat like everyone else and depriving them of their dignity. Is the model that we really want to defend the waste of the consumer society by giving it to the waste of the labour society?
Another argument for the fight against waste, is the reduction of pressure on scarce resources, the reduction of pollution from production systems. Reducing waste will lead to producing less and thus reducing our environmental impact. This is the main argument. But if the problem is to reduce environmental impact, is food waste the first area to be tackled? Isn't it more effective to reduce the waste of leaking refrigerant gases, to reduce individual car journeys, consumption of intensively-fed animal products, programmed obsolescence, etc.?
There are ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are far more effective than reducing food waste (see the Drawndown project). This does not prevent us from seeking to reduce it, but it does raise questions about the high priority that has been given to it. It is interesting to see, for example, that in the fight against food waste, little is said about the fight against packaging, even though it is highly polluting.
A final argument to justify the fight against food wastage is that it generates new economic activities and new jobs by recycling waste. Europe (as opposed to the FAO) considers that recovering food waste is a means of combating wastage. Giving canteen waste to animals would thus reduce waste. The problem is that there are far less costly ways for the environment to feed the animals than giving leftovers of ready-made meals from processed, frozen, reheated products, etc. The problem is that it is much cheaper for the environment to feed the animals than to give them leftovers of meals prepared from processed, frozen, reheated products, etc. In ecological terms, it makes no sense to recycle waste if this prevents it from being reduced. Recycling waste is a very good way to let the waste market continue to develop (because household waste is an outlet for companies). We can thus continue to produce too much, therefore to waste, and give ourselves a clear conscience by valorising this waste. In addition, this allows us to create new activities to inject even more energy into the waste recovery process and thus to increase the consumption of fossil resources and pollution!
All societies waste, even the poorest (who waste less than the rich). Waste is the cost of freedom. Today, we buy "opportunities to consume", the freedom to choose, not to plan as precisely as possible. We buy food that we can cook, without being absolutely sure that we will actually cook it. People have always sought, as soon as they could, to free themselves from material constraints, to free themselves from scarcity. Feasts are a good example of this: they only make sense with their abundance. There are no frugal feasts. In order to build social ties, at weddings, at deaths, at peace agreements, one must detach oneself from material contingencies: one will open champagne, pour it in abundance, prepare expensive dishes, etc. Isn't luxury a form of waste?
The fight against food waste is excellent demagoguery, in the positive sense of the word. No one can be against it because everyone considers it a scandal. It therefore pays off politically to make it a battle horse. But the risk is to focus citizens' concerns on a subject that is marginal from the environmental point of view and from the point of view of food security, to give them the feeling that their concerns are being addressed, so as not to fundamentally change the system that is leading us to the depletion of resources and to climate change and other pollution. There is also the risk of making individuals, consumers, feel guilty by asking them to reduce waste, as if they were responsible for a system of overproduction which they did not create but which was imposed on them. There is a certain cynicism in asking individuals to control their desires when the whole supply system is designed to make them give in to their desires, through promotions, through advertising, through easy access to products.
Better control of purchases and inventories allows us to rethink the social and environmental value of our food and the hidden costs it represents. In this sense, the watchword of the fight against waste is useful. But it would be better to talk about overproduction rather than waste in order to move towards a rebalancing of responsibilities and not to give the impression that consumers alone can be the driving force for change, even if they can and must of course contribute to it.
Nicolas BricasCIRAD, UMR Moisa, UNESCO Chair in Food for the World
The original of this article has been published on the website of the UNESCO Chair for World Food Security.

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Header photo : © JW LTD


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Axel Cuny
9 months

Hello, I don't know if I'm going to get an answer, but already great article !
I came to ask if it was possible to use the image from the head for a video that will be published on facebook and Instagram! This video is about food waste, hopefully you'll have an answer, you can contact me by mail
Have a good end of day

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