Agrifood Systems

Leveraging science and innovation for food loss and waste reduction


Panel at FAO Science and Innovation Forum discusses innovation to reduce food loss and waste and bolster agrifood systems transformation.

Within the framework of the FAO Science and Innovation Forum, FAO hosted a special event entitledFood loss and waste reduction: how can we better integrate science and innovation in our actions?. The session took place in a hybrid format and saw the participation of presenters and panellists from several countries worldwide, with an overall audience of about 100 people.

The event, which aimed at gathering perspectives and experiences from stakeholders from various parts of the world regarding applying science and leveraging innovation to sustainably reduce food loss and waste (FLW), resulted in a very rich discussion that looked at the nature of science and innovation for FLW reduction and the enabling environment to support innovation.

As Máximo Torero Cullen, FAO’s Chief Economist, reminded in his keynote address, 14% of food is lost post-harvest, before ever reaching the retail market, while another 17% is wasted at the retail and consumer level. Moreover, FLW have a significant impact on food security and nutrition and contribute significantly to climate change, to biodiversity loss, to environmental pollution, and to unsustainable use of natural resources. Reducing food loss and waste is a triple win that can help bolster environmental, economic, and social sustainability and well-being.

Drawing from examples from Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ghana, Germany, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, the technical presentations and the panel discussion showed the multifaceted nature of innovation for reducing FLW, ranging from innovation in technologies to innovations in logistics arrangements, institutions, policies, market relationships, finance products and business models. They underscored the importance of science in generating the evidence, data and new insights that provide the basis for innovation, showed how proven solutions tested elsewhere can constitute innovation in new contexts, and highlighted the significant role youth can play in applying science and innovation for FLW reduction

The discussions at the event also revealed that, in order to stimulate and support innovations that can lead to FLW reduction, it is paramount for governments to provide an adequate policy, regulatory and institutional environment. On the other hand, multi-stakeholder collaboration among the public sector, the private sector, academia, civil society, financers and other agrifood system actors is key to the development and adoption of innovations for FLW reduction. Moreover, knowledge and information sharing can lead end-beneficiaries to adopt behavioural changes, ensuring a bottom-up approach to innovation to reduce FLW.

This special event of the FAO Science and Innovation Forum 2022 was also an opportunity for a preview and announcement of the imminent launch of the #123Pledge to reduce food loss and waste. The pledge is hosted by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and FAO, and will be launched during the upcoming COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Through the pledge, governments, companies, institutions, civil society, and entrepreneurs are being invited to make voluntary commitments to reduce FLW and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions they generate.

In closing the event, Divine Njie, Deputy Director of FAO's Food Systems and Food Safety Division, underscored the importance of working together to support investment in the intervention areas identified during the event. He also expressed FAO’s readiness to work with all partners of the Food is Never Waste Coalition that has formed as a follow-up to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

List of resources and further readings