The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the American Seed Trade Association, and Innovature brought together a panel of experts Tuesday to talk about the issues surrounding food waste and what consumers and industry members can do to combat this issue.

Forty percent of food in the United States goes uneaten each year. According to Doug Cole, senior manager of marketing and biotech affairs of Simplot, the produce industry wastes approximately 65% of its product. Of that 65%, 20% rots on the vine or is “not pretty enough to pick,” 15% is wasted in distribution or packaging, and 30% is wasted by consumers either by letting it “rot in their refrigerators or mistaking ugly brown spot as being rotted and tossing it in the trash.” 

Panelists said things like genetic engineering and better awareness of food waste among consumers and policymakers would be helpful. 

“For us, it is really important to have a grower trait and a consumer trait.” Cole said of Simplot's approach. A grower trait would be to help the produce last longer after ripening or creating a cultivar that ripens at the same time for a more efficient harvest. For consumers, traits could include preventing produce from browning and bruising or becoming vulnerable to rotting or molding, preventing the consumer from throwing out the food so quickly.

Monica McBride of the World Wildlife Fund also discussed a need to explore new markets for produce. She used cucumbers as an example; A way to reduce cucumber waste is to make pickles with them. But this can pose a problem because unpicked cucumber might not be the right size or are too ugly to use. Leftovers can be made into relish but, “there is only so much demand for relish," said McBride.

For more information go to