October 16 is World Food Day, a time to promote worldwide awareness and action on behalf of those who suffer from hunger – and acknowledge the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.
The world produces enough food to feed everyone, yet one person in nine suffers from chronic hunger. According to the latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, more than 820 million people suffer chronic undernourishment. In order to meet growing demand, agriculture in 2050 will need to produce nearly 50 percent more food, feed and biofuel than it did in 2012.
Paradoxically, one-third of all food in developed markets goes to waste, squandering not only food but also the land, water and energy used to produce it. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food losses and waste amount to roughly $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing countries – nearly $1 trillion in total.
Plus, food waste generates serious greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that approximately 133 billion pounds of food is wasted annually in the United States alone, contributing to 18 percent of total U.S. landfill methane (greenhouse gas) emissions.
Fortunately, modern advancements in agriculture are reducing waste even before food makes its way to a consumer’s plate. The following are just a few examples of what is now possible, thanks to science, technology and industry collaboration.
- More resilient crops – Plant breeding breakthroughs produce crops better able to withstand diseases, insects and environmental stresses.
- Digital tools – High-tech imaging and enhanced data analytics provide farmers with real-time crop information and productivity insights so they can make better decisions to minimize crop damage while improving resource efficiency.
- Better crop protection options – Modern fungicides, insecticides and herbicides do more with less to help prevent crop losses.
- Improved land utilization – Converting less productive farmland into pollinator or wildlife habitat helps farmers focus on growing high-quality crops on only their most productive acres.
- Partnering with food companies – Working with suppliers and processors committed to reducing food waste helps minimize post-harvest food losses.
As a global sustainable agriculture company, Syngenta is committed to addressing the inherent challenges – including food waste – in feeding a growing population. Food security is often discussed exclusively within a context of the need for increased production. Meeting the challenge of reduced food waste also will play an important role in helping to make a zero hunger world possible.
Our commitment is evident in the innovative seed, crop protection and digital ag technologies we bring to market with the help of our 5,000 R&D scientists throughout the world; our collaborative efforts with food companies and peer organizations; and The Good Growth Plan, which outlines six core commitments focusing on the principles of more food, less waste; more biodiversity, less degradation; and more health, less poverty.
We also are proud to be among the founding partners of Sporting Sustainability, which aims to raise consumer awareness around the impact of food waste prevention, while using educational tools to encourage the adoption of ever more sustainable practices. To make an even deeper, more meaningful impact, we understand that we cannot act alone.
About the author: Jill Wheeler is Head of Sustainable Productivity at Syngenta North America.