Dear HLPE Steering Committee, Project Team and all,
It is a pleasure to be able to participate to the discussion with my contribution, which I hope can be of help.
I am currently in the process of writing my Masters dissertation on how food waste has been addressed in Japan, that, although is not among the countries on which international attention has been conventionally drawn upon, could offer some useful insights as far as context-related analyses are concerned.
Food waste in Japan is entering the public scenario only in the last few years, but this is happening in a context in which it gained specific legal attention with the Food Recycling Law in 2001 within a general discourse on garbage. That law, among the successful results of environmental policies, allowed the food industry to shift from 45% of commercial and industrial food waste recycled in 2002 to 82% in 2010 (with a prevalent conversion into feed for animals). Apart from the environmental footprint, one of the underlying concerns for its enactment was Japan’s food security, given that the nation’s self sufficiency rate has long been the lowest among industrialized countries (less than 40% on a calorie basis). This shed light on its high dependence on imports and future fluctuations of the global food availability and prices. Therefore, better resource efficiency (with a sharp progress in technology for recycling) and food availability (concerns about the nation’s future supplies) were the environmental and economic dimensions that shaped Japan’s first approach to the problem, with an initial enlarged perspective to food-related waste that gained relevant commitment of the academia and the institutions.
Except for the food banking activity (essentially starting in 2000), the national questioning to the intrinsic structure of the food line started in 2012, with a collaboration between the food industry and the ministries discussing common commercial practices that most easily result in food waste in terms of returned or early discarded food (e.g. the “1/3 rule”, mandating the delivery of a food product to the retailer to be made within the first one third of its shelf life, and the sales period to be limited to the first two-thirds of the shelf-life; arbitrary best-before dates that in some cases are shorter than abroad). These practices, not regulated by any law, emerged as a result of marketing strategies aiming at being "the most effective" for the Japanese consumer.
What indeed seems to be one of the most important and complicated issues to address currently, which had not been reflected in what we could refer to as the economical modernization of the country up to now, is the national consumer culture. This is regarded as one of the most attached to high food quality and standards, drawing high attention to freshness, appearance, labelling and to food nutritional value. It results in a general low-self-responsibility attitude and a high propensity to avoid risk. Although consumer behaviour has been included in national food and nutritional education and domestic sciences, reference to food waste have not been directly included in the nation’s practical political agenda until last year (despite some local governments’ individual initiatives). Moreover, there is very little study connection between waste-related food consumption (i.e. waste composition, reasons for disposing) and a diachronic analysis of consumer behaviour, which could shed light on how and why waste-related patterns developed through time. This could be of relevance in that the current disposition to food fads and scandal-driven panic-oriented behaviour could be traced back to a logical out-growth of historical concerns. These have been connecting traditional cultural values placed to eating and health to the shift of the focus from food security (scarcity after the war), to taste (Gourmet Boom of the 80s), to safety (food scandals), to function (food faddism). High-quality demands by consumers, that are indirectly shaping the entire system at present, could also have been induced in turn by the same construction of it over time, since the concept of freshness had a complete different connotation before the appearance of supermarkets.
Non-sustainable consumption and production patterns regarding food waste (economic constraints and social consequences) should be therefore analyzed together and from a diachronic point of view. Their interactions in time could serve to achieve an integrated insight on the vectors of food waste fighting that are likely to occur in a specific national context, as well as on specific and culture-bound interconnections between social and political actors.
Swiss Comments on the HLPE study “Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems”
I have been following this online discussion (Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems ) during the past few months, and it is good to see input and ideas coming in from many countries and types of organizations.
A few years ago I led a postharvest food losses study for the Gates Foundation, and we took a look back at 12 "agricultural development projects" funded by the World Bank, USAID , USDA, JICA, etc. to see what had worked or did not work in terms of helping smallholders in developing countries to reduce food losses. More than 45 scientists from a dozen countries participated in 2 years of field research including face to face interviews of past project beneficiaries and managers in 6 countries (Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia, India and Rwanda).
The report summary can be found online here:
BMGF Appropriate Postharvest Technologies project (WFLO 2009-10) http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/datastore/234-1848.pdf (slide deck) http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/datastore/234-1847.pdf (full report)
The key recommendations are as follow:
Building on Lessons Learned
Future projects should incorporate the major lessons learned from the 12 projects that were revisited by our WFLO/UC Davis postharvest teams, and the results of our 30 commodity systems assessments and 24 postharvest losses and quality assessments.
1) Focus on the Beneficiaries
Many of our assessments pointed to the need to advocate agri-business skills, attitudes and aspirations.
Many of the most successful past projects assisted farmers to become active marketers, rather than passively waiting for a trader to arrive at their farm gate and offer a price. When farmers were willing to take on more responsibility for their crops and become direct marketers, by learning how to grade, pack, handle and sell their produce directly to the retailer, they also gained more of the financial rewards.
2) Work through Groups
Whether via informal groups, co-operatives or formal associations, it is vital to work with groups to impact policy and reach large numbers of people.
Groups are the key to:
The CSA process we used to gather information on commodity systems during this planning project can be inexpensively and effectively applied to reassess the progress of farmer groups as they try out and adopt or reject new postharvest technologies.
Recent grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for micro-finance ($38m) will allow 18 institutions to expand their portfolios, and reach more smallholder farmers.
3) Women's issues remain important
Access of women to credit, training and extension services remain lower than that of men. Ideas for improvements include:
Many of these issues were recently highlighted by a report from the World Food Programme (2009).
4) Postharvest best practices should be incorporated early on in projects.
Identifying appropriate interventions is the first step key, since barriers affecting adoption of postharvest interventions include complexity, availability and perceived costs versus benefits. Having a year round supply of vegetables could improve the nutritional status of rural families, and especially for young children and their mothers.
The World Bank estimates that 20–25% of the global disease burden for children is due to under-nutrition (World Bank, 1993). Postharvest technology is an important part of achieving food security. According to the UN, Food security is typically subdivided into three components: (i) availability, or the existence of an adequate and stable supply of food; (ii) access, or the ability to obtain (physically or economically) appropriate and nutritious food; and (iii) utilization, or the ability to consume and benefit from nutritious foods (UN, 1996).
Postharvest best practices include:
Work is on-going by our economic team members to develop an "expert system" for decision making regarding when to use which postharvest technology for what crops. Key decision making inputs include how the technology can affect postharvest losses, shelf life and market value for a specific crop, and what the technology will cost in a specific location.
5) Invest wisely in postharvest infrastructure
Training in postharvest horticulture increases readiness and willingness to make changes, but if postharvest infrastructure and marketing support is not there for participants, the results of training can be frustration. Similarly, providing infrastructure without training can be a disaster waiting to happen— successful postharvest management requires complex knowledge and skills.
Improving communication regarding pertinent information (i.e. expected weather changes, availability and prices of postharvest supplies, consumer demands, changes in the needs of traders and market prices) will require outreach efforts via accessible methods such as local radio, inexpensive mobile phones, internet kiosks or via visual means (for example daily updated whiteboards posting market prices).
6) Build local capacity (strengthen institutions, human resources, community services)
Training should leave behind a cadre of local trainers and support service businesses to continue the work that is started by a development project. Capacity building includes:
We recommend that future projects include Commodity Systems Assessment (CSA) as a methodology for training extension workers— the CSA process requires them to work as a team, learn by doing, study all the details on the local commodity system, meet key players, decision makers, producers, postharvest handlers, processors, marketers, and understand the value chain from field to fork. The original CSAM manual is available online from the UN FAO inPHo website (LaGra, 1990).
Several of our consultants recommended that future projects include the methodology for mapping and influencing dynamic agrifood markets (includes Value Chain Mapping) as one of the first steps of any new development project. The manual is available online from www.regoverningmarkets.org <http://www.regoverningmarkets.org/> (Vermeulen et al, 2008).
Hall and Devereau (2000), when studying low cost storage for sweet potatoes in Uganda, found that a combination of lab research centered at modern institutions and a adaptive research fieldwork based approach could be used to improve results and speed the technology validation process.
7) Projects should have a longer term focus
8) Promote an Integrated Postharvest Management System
Our final recommendation is to promote an integrated postharvest management system beginning with "training of master postharvest trainers".
One of the unplanned side effects of this planning project has been to raise the expectation of potential target groups, since once they learned a little nit about how postharvest technology can help improve their livelihoods they actively have been seeking more information and requesting future training. Direct requests have already been made for:
The following steps would be required:
Initially, the focus of any new development project should be to provide basic information and demonstrations of these simple practices that can reduce postharvest losses. The longer term goal should be to promote the use of cooling and cool or cold storage and transport practices that can protect the investment of the farmers and can further reduce losses. Globally, investments in the cold chain often have been shown to repay themselves in a short period of time (Kitinoja, 2008)—hence the existence of an enormous number of companies around the world that offer services in cooling, cold storage and transport for a fee that is willingly paid by the owner of the produce— and this reduction in waste theoretically allows for three positive outcomes. The grower can receive more for their crops, while the middlemen or marketers lose less during handling and transport, and the consumer gets a better quality product at the same or lower price. By making an investment in appropriate scale postharvest technologies we can therefore achieve a win/win/win situation, where everyone involved in the value chain will benefit. The cool chain simply protects the food supply as it moves along the value chain—so we can end up with more food, of better quality, safer and more nutritious to eat, and at a lower price because we have reduced the level of waste.
Dr. Lisa Kitinoja
The Postharvest Education Foundation
PO Box 38, La Pine, Oregon 97739 USA
Website homepage: www.postharvest.org
The solitary purpose of this report is to begin a dialogue on considering quality systems thinking to improve food security in sustainable food systems. For people to be hungry at a time when we waste food demonstrates that opportunity.
System thinking offers insights in how to define, analyse, and consider solutions. Waste in a Food Security context is much broader than what ends in landfill. By considering food as an operation including raw materials, conversion, inventory and transport, analysis can be targeted with useful comparison to the quality paradigm. In terms of opportunity to improve, a majority of the waste is anticipated to be in first world. Third world though would also benefit in that the ideas are transferable.
Food security is defined by access, availability ,utilisation and reliability. Each criterion has specific waste impacts that must be addressed. Impacts due to soil degradation, water scarcity, arable land availability are seen as areas for system improvement and need a separate discussion. The vision of the report is to offer a framework to engage the public in saving food.
[see detailed comments in the attachment, Ed.]
In recent times, the topic food losses/food waste has come back to the political agenda. Several studies have been launched since (see Brussels-briefing; FAO, World Bank, GIZ etc.) which came to similar conclusions about the scope of wastage, using existing data from FAOSTAT and from former studies in the 80/90es. Accordingly, technical and institutional solutions are generally known from former times, but not (anymore) applied. New data on losses, which are collected in the affected areas and which rely on scientific research are nevertheless rare and there is the need to invest more in research on losses in the affected areas.
The main focus of this study should lies on institutional and policy frame conditions which are able to reduce losses and waste and should elaborate on the right incentives at a policy level to tackle this problem.
Dear Sir or Madam,
many thanks for the opportunity to give response on the call “Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems” which is very interesting. The Institute of Waste Management of the BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna has been dealing with the topic of food wastage for more than 12 years and we have investigated different issues along the food supply chain (http://www.wau.boku.ac.at/11754.html?&L=1).
From our point of view, the call includes a very general description of a very extensive issue and one should be careful not to overload the intended study too much. As it is mentioned, the study should be finished in a very short time period and it seems to be in question if it is possible to handle all the different issues in a proper way. Thus, we suggest to focus on issues which have not been already covered by previous studies (such as Gustavsson et al., 2011). A relaunch of an uncertain estimation on the generation of food losses and wastes based on the same very poor data seems not to be very meaningful.
The aspect of over-nutrition/obesity should be better excluded from the food waste prevention discussion as it raises a lot of ethically sensitive questions when thinking about implementation of corresponding prevention measures. Certainly obesity is an important topic but should be targeted in another context (e.g. economic damage due to increased health-care costs etc.).
Although food waste has been discussed for some time, there is no common definition or methodology. Further, uncoordinated research work has been done resulting in various recommendations to several countries worldwide. To facilitate a more efficient approach in future, we suggest to consider the approach and results of current food waste research projects. In August 2012 a 4-year FP7-project named FUSIONS was launched which is supported by 21 respectable European organisations and food waste experts from 13 EU member countries. The overall aim of the project is to contribute significantly to the harmonisation of food waste monitoring, to investigate the feasibility of social innovative measures for optimised food use in the food chain and the development of guidelines for a common Food Waste policy for EU-27. Utilising the policy and behavioural change recommendations from the delivery of the key objectives, the FUSIONS European multi-stakeholder platform will enable, encourage, engage and support key actors across Europe in delivering a 50% reduction of food waste and a 20% reduction in the food chains resource inputs by 2020. Examples could include uniform labelling addressing sell- or use-by dates, innovations in the chain to improve shelf-life of food products, or creative solutions for behavioural change within stakeholders. It all starts with agreed-upon definitions and a common methodology for referring to the extent of the problem and its drivers. More information can be found via the website (http://www.eu-fusions.org/) or via facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/EU-Fusions/525226617504781).
As the main goals of FUSIONS are very similar to those formulated within the CFS call, it seems to be very wise to consider the already done respectively planned work (FUSIONS will end in July 2016) to include the European Community area into CFS-project. The most reputed European food waste experts already contribute to the FUSIONS consortium, thus it can be seen as think tank for the region and could be used as input for the CFS-project.
Greetings from Vienna,
Felicitas Schneider and colleagues
Felicitas Schneider, MSc
Institute of Waste Management
BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences
Muthgasse 107/3rd floor
With regard to points 5 and 6, I believe it is critical to acknowledge and quantify with respect to point 5, the amount of food waste that CANNOT or IS NOT recovered and re-distributed because of the following policies many/most countries have in place
1) Lack of or unfavorable good samaritan laws relating to insulation donors who provide food fit for human consumption
2) Lack of or inadequate tax policy allowing for full and complete tax deductibility of PRODUCT and/or CASH DONATIONS to food banks
3) Any VAT or VAT-like tax that is levied on the value of surplus food items to food banks.
This data should be used to proactively make the case for changes to all relevant aspects of points 1-3 where the necessary conditions for full and enthusiastic participation in and support of food banks is compromised by lack of these structural incentives.
Al respecto me permito comentarle que el documento plantea la propuesta del HLPE para establecer el alcance del estudio solicitado y poder definir, al término de esta primer consulta electrónica, los términos de referencia para comprender las rutas y procesos vinculados a las pérdidas y el desperdicio de alimentos a nivel mundial y poder establecer directrices y recomendaciones para reducir su impacto social, ambiental y económico, así como su posible contribución para fortalecer de forma sistémica la seguridad alimentaria a través de sus cuatro dimensiones: disponibilidad, acceso, utilización y estabilidad de los alimentos.
Sin duda alguna, buscar alternativas de solución para tal problemática mundial, conlleva la integración de equipos de trabajo multidisciplinarios, así como la evaluación y análisis de múltiples factores que convergen en este fenómeno. Tan solo por mencionar algunos de estos factores:
Nivel de desarrollo de los países.
Comportamiento de los consumidores (patrones de consumo).
Fenómenos naturales y climáticos (sequías, inundaciones, alteración en la corriente del Niño).
Sociales (niveles de pobreza alimentaria).
Ambientales (manejo de desechos sólidos, emisión de gases de invernadero).
Prácticas de mercado (estándares de calidad y estéticos de los productos alimenticios).
En el caso particular de la pesca y la acuacultura, si consideramos sólo el nivel de desarrollo de los países; las principales causas de pérdidas y desperdicios, en los países con alto desarrollo, están asociadas al descarte de productos durante la pesca y a los patrones de comportamiento del consumidor, esta última causa adquiere niveles de hasta un 25%, mientras que en los países en vías de desarrollo, las principales causas son el manejo pos-captura, los procesos de transformacióny la distribución, todas ellas relacionadas a las limitaciones en infraestructura y tecnologías de los procesos productivos.
Según estimaciones recientes, se considera que en México se desperdician o pierden casi 100 kg de alimentos por persona por año, colocándonos entre los países con mayores mermas causadas por hábitos o patrones de consumo (Estados Unidos y Países de la Unión Europea desperdician entre 95 y 115 kg per cápita).
Dada la falta e insuficiencia de datos, estos estudios se hacen con muchas suposiciones sobre el desperdicio y la pérdida de alimentos, sobretodo en lo que se refiere a la cuantificación de éstos a niveles tan estrechos como el núcleo familiar.
Es por ello urgente que se investigue a un nivel de mayor certidumbre sobre los diferentes procesos y factores intrínsecos asociados con las pérdidas y desperdicios de los alimentos, desde la cadena de suministro de la producción primaria, pasando por aquellos relacionados con las prácticas de gestión y gobernanza, tanto públicas como privadas, hasta los patrones de comportamiento del consumidor final. Especialmente si se tiene en cuenta que, en países como México y otros de menor desarrollo, existe una preocupación que ocupa a sus gobiernos para disminuir los niveles de pobreza alimentaria y mal nutrición.
La participación de México, tanto en la contextualización como en la ejecución de este estudio, sería de gran importancia para establecer líneas base de esta problemática, ya que desde el inicio de la actual administración, el Lic. Enrique Peña Nieto está impulsando la Cruzada Nacional Contra el Hambre a partir de una alimentación y nutrición adecuada, programa que busca mediante la implementación de sinergias multisectoriales y acciones para minimizar las pérdidas de alimentos, apoyar de forma inmediata a aquellos sectores de la población en pobreza extrema y carencia alimentaria.
Dear Members of the HLPE Steering Committee,
I am referring to the e-consolation process you have initiated on “Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems” http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/cfs-hlpe/food_losses_waste_scope. I am also referring to the paper on the scope proposed by the HLPE Steering Committee http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/cfs-hlpe/sites/cfs-hlpe/files/files/Food_losses_waste/topic_en_food_losses_waste.pdf
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