FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

FAO expert addresses faculty and students in Krasnodar and Moscow on Food Loss and Waste (FLW) Reduction

Photo collage: © FAO/Vladimir Mikheev

Robert van Otterdijk, Agro-industry Officer, FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, delivered two lectures this week on “Food Waste during Food Processing and the Re-Use of Food Rest Products” at two Russian universities. On 21 November, he addressed academics and students at Kuban Agricultural University in the Southern Russian city of Krasnodar, and the following day he spoke at Timiryazev Agricultural Academy in Moscow.

Both lectures were part of the Dutch Science Talks initiative by the Nuffic Neso Russia (the Dutch organization for internationalization in education), and were organized in close collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Moscow.

As part of his lecture tour of Russia, Van Otterdijk also spoke to an audience at Professor Eugenia Serova’s Institute of Agrarian Research, Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Having introduced FAO’s Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction (SAVE FOOD), Van Otterdijk familiarized the audiences with the key terms and concepts associated with the issue. Malfunctioning of the food production and supply system or its institutional and legal framework is one of the main causes of Food Losses. In comparison, Food Waste - the removal from the food supply chain of food fit for human consumption – is mainly caused by economic or social behavior, including discarding food by choice or as a result of poor stock management and neglect.

“Because food loss and waste is such a complex problem, involving all segments and influencing all actors in the value chain, it can only be reduced when addressed with an integrated multi-disciplinary approach. Moreover, it is the private sector that can make a remarkable reduction in food waste”, Van Otterdijk said. “While the public sector shall provide an enabling environment through incentives and legislation, the private sector shall invest and act. And both can contribute to awareness-raising and education of consumers to produce a real impact.”

During his presentation, Van Otterdijk listed the key properties of the solutions for dealing with food losses. They must:

  • Not be more expensive      than food loss itself
  • Not place a higher burden      on the environment and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Make more food available      to the people that need it most
  • Be socially and culturally acceptable

Food waste re-use is another solution to mitigate the FLW issue and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. In fact, “adequately processed food scraps can generate renewable energy, soil fertilizer, and feed for animals,” Van Otterdijk detailed. Composting food waste produces a natural fertilizer while through anaerobic digestion food waste can be used to produce methane, a valuable energy source.

The climate change aspect of the issue was a major focus of the lectures. The increase in the frequency of droughts, floods and other natural disasters, the spread of pests and diseases have a strong impact on food losses at pre- and post-harvest level.

FLW serve as a major contributor to climate change responsible for approximately 8% of global GHG emissions. The GHG emissions are generated at each stage of the food system (such as land preparation, livestock, fertilizers, energy inputs along the value chain and waste disposal). FLW is often caused by the misuse of natural resources – water, land, inputs, etc. In turn, FLW indirectly affects ecosystem degradation, deforestation, biodiversity loss, Robert van Otterdijk underlined.

Yet, Van Otterdeijk reminded that FLW reduction was “not a goal in itself”, but an “essential part of the creation of efficient value chains, which are the core of sustainable food systems that, in turn, provide food and nutrition security, economic growth and climate change mitigation.”

Summing up his presentations, FAO expert pointed out that in order to increase food availability, “food loss and waste reduction is in principle far more efficient than increasing food production.”

Since by 2050 mankind, more numerous and affluent, would need 60% more food available, FLW reduction is a rational way of tackling the problem; estimates show that halving FLW may help ease the burden on resources; only a 28% increase of food production may in that case be required to feed the planet.