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FAO hails G20 focus on building sustainable food systems and reducing food loss and waste

New platform aimed at strengthening information sharing to help curb food loss and waste globally

8 May 2015, Istanbul - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva today welcomed a commitment by the Group of 20 (G20) agriculture ministers to meet global food security and nutrition needs by building food systems that use natural resources more efficiently, are economically sound and socially more inclusive, and help combat climate change.

Graziano da Silva, addressing the ministers at a meeting in Istanbul, also praised specific initiatives announced by the G20 to reduce food loss and waste, including a new platform aimed at strengthening information sharing to help curb food loss and waste in both the G20 members and low-income countries.

"FAO is ready to work with our partners to establish this platform. I am confident it will give a concrete contribution to sustainably increasing food security and nutrition," the FAO Director-General told the G20 agriculture ministers.

Food waste and loss - a major global problem

In a communiqué adopted at the meeting, the G20 agriculture ministers noted "with great concern the significant extent of food loss and waste throughout food value chains" describing it as "a global problem of enormous economic, environmental and societal significance".

It is estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. Food is lost when it is spilled or spoilt before it reaches its final product or retail stage, and it is wasted when it is not consumed because it is left to spoil or discarded by retailers or consumers.

Sustainable and resilient food systems

The G20 agriculture ministers discussed how to meet the food security and nutrition needs for a world population expected to top nine billion by 2050. FAO estimates that to feed this growing population, global food supply will need to increase by 60 per cent.

The ministers cited the need for sustainable and resilient food systems - from production, through food processing, distribution, retailing and consumption. These would serve to expand food supplies and create decent work in rural areas, especially for small-scale family farmers, women and young people, they emphasized.

They also noted that among other things, sustainable food systems should help address climate change. "Improvement of soil fertility, water retention capacity and restoration of degraded land are key elements to improve agricultural productivity for food security in a changing climate," they said.

Market transparency

Additionally, the ministers agreed to strengthen the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) - a G20 initiative of which the secretariat is housed in FAO, aimed at enhancing food market transparency and encouraging coordination of policy action in response to market uncertainty.

"While AMIS has been a particularly successful initiative, we dedicate ourselves to deeper and stronger collaboration in AMIS to materially improve global data and market transparency by disclosing regular, reliable, accurate, timely and comparable data," the agriculture ministers said.

Adequate nutrition a prerequisite to human development

Around 800 million people in the world are still hungry and malnutrition remains widespread - some 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies while obesity is increasing, especially in middle-income countries.

Describing adequate nutrition as a "prerequisite for human development, productivity and growth" the G20 ministers reaffirmed the Rome Declaration on Nutrition adopted by the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), which was organized by FAO and the World Health Organization in November. They strongly encouraged governments and other stakeholders to incorporate the ICN2 Framework for Action into their national food and nutrition strategies.

Responsible investments

The G20 members - consisting of 19 countries and the EU - have a global impact on food security and nutrition through their trade practices, policies and investment decisions.

The Ministers expressed their support to countries and international organizations in promoting the implementation of the "Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security" and the "Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems".

Photo: ©FAO/Sergey Kozmin
It is estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally.