How much food is wasted?
The global volume of food wasted per year is estimated to be 1.3 Gtonnes. This
can be compared to the total agricultural
production (for food and non-food uses
such as textile fibers, energy crops of medicinal plants), which is about 6
Where and how food wastage occurs mostly?
Wastage happens at all steps of
production, handling, storage, processing,
distribution and consumption, Agricultural production being
responsible for the greatest amount of total food wastage volumes, with 33% of
Wastage occurring at consumption level is much more variable, with wastage in
middle and high-income regions at 31–39%, but much lower in low-income regions,
What is the impact of food wastage on greenhouse gas emission and climate?
Without accounting for GHG emissions from land
use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is
estimated to 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2-equivalent. For a sense of scale,
when considering the total emissions by country, only the USA and China are
responsible for more emissions.
What is the water footprint related to food wastage?
Globally, the consumption of surface and
groundwater resources of food wastage
(the so called blue water footprint) is about 250 km³, which is equivalent to
3.6 times consumption of the USA for the same period.
Animal products have, in general, a larger water footprint
per tonne of product than crops. This is one of the reasons why it appears more
efficient to obtain calories, protein and
fat through crop products than through animal products.
What is the impact of food wastage on land use?
At world level, the total amount of food wastage in 2007 represented the
production of 1.4 billion hectares
of land, equal to about 30 % of the world’s agricultural land area, and larger
than the surface of Canada. Low-income regions account for about two-thirds of
this total. The major contributors to land occupation are meat and dairy
products, with 78 % of the total, whereas their contribution to total food
wastage is 11%.
Land degradation is also an important factor of food wastage. Most of the food
wastage at the agricultural production
stage is in regions there is land degradation or where the soil is already in
poor shape, thus adding undue pressure on the land.
What is the impact of food wastage on biodiversity?
Agricultural production, in particular
food crops, is responsible for 66 % of threats to
species in terrestrial systems.
In the case of marine
biodiversity, countries are
“fishing down the food chain,” with fish
catches increasingly consisting of smaller fish that are lower in the food
chain, and at a higher rate than the ability of the
fish stocks to renew. Any waste
depletes the resources even faster.
What is the economic impact of food wastage?
On a global scale, about USD 750 billion
worth of food was wasted in 2007, the equivalent of the GDP of Turkey or
Switzerland, and this value is a low
estimate since it mainly considers producer prices and not the value of the end
A summary of the contribution of each geographic region to food wastage can be
seen in the table below. It appears globally that:
- Cereal wastage in Asia emerges as a significant
- Meat has high impacts in terms of land occupation and carbon
footprint, even if wastage volumes in all regions are comparatively low
- Fruit wastage emerges as a blue water hotspot in Asia, Latin America
and Europe, linked to the volume of food wasted;
- The carbon footprint of vegetables singles them out as a hotspot in
Industrial Asia, Europe, and South & South East Asia;
- Starchy roots, although experiencing high volumes of wastage, never
appear in impacts top 10, since this commodity doesn't have a large carbon,
water or land use footprint.
Table 3: Cross-analysis of all environmental components, by
“Region*Commodity” pairs. In each column: contribution to total in percent and
ranking from 1 to 10 (or 5) in bold
The FAO makes also recommendations on how to better evaluate food wastage
assessements, which is necessary to adequately identify and manage effective
remediation actions in the future