The Right to Food

Reducing food loss and waste is critical to the right to food

News - 29.09.2020

29 September 2020, Rome- 690 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat, while each year one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted across the globe. What are the linkages between food security and food loss and waste?

The right to adequate food implies that food is available and accessible to people. As such, production, processing and marketing systems should match food availability with demand.

Sometimes food never gets eaten or is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain because of shortcomings in harvest, distribution or pricing. This threatens the ability of people to access food. In addition, food loss and waste negatively affect climate change, poverty and trade, and this in turn the realization of the right to food. For instance, under current food production systems greenhouse gas emissions are increased by eight percent. 

Improving methods from the farm to processing and consumption is recommended to both reduce food loss and waste and to support the realization of the right to adequate food.

Raising awareness amongst consumers and helping them make informed choices is also crucial. Cases have shown how date labelling can contribute to preventing food waste.

As food loss and waste impact on different sectors and at different levels, “solutions require an inclusive approach that puts special attention in not generating costs for the most vulnerable, and benefits all the population groups and individuals equally”, explained Juan Carlos García y Cebolla, Right to Food Team Leader of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

However, a reduction in the amount of food wasted by consumers and retailers in high-income countries does not necessarily mean there is more food available to poor households in low-income countries, as it may conversely result in reduced demand and thus lower income and worsening food security. Supporting small farmers is also important, as they do not always count with adequate storage facilities or good conditions for handling practices. Besides, some types of date labelling may induce households with higher socio-economic status to waste food, affecting negatively the most vulnerable.

Policy makers need to listen, and engage all the parties affected when discussing measures. Recommendations in the Right to Food Guidelines can guide States to take actions on food loss and waste to support the realization of the right to adequate food for everybody.

Stepping up international support for accessing adequate food

Back in 1999, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated in its General Comment 12 that the root causes of hunger and malnutrition are not due to a “lack of food but a lack of access to available food”.

Within the 2030 Agenda, Sustainable Development Goal 12 seeks to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains.

The High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security (HLPE) also recognized in 2014 the importance of the sustainability of food systems, so that food is accessible not only at present but also for future generations. In 2020 the Panel also reiterated recommendations to reduce food loss and waste, especially post-harvest losses in developing countries and consumer food waste in industrialized countries.

FAO has been developing the voluntary codes of conduct (CoC) on the reduction of food loss and food waste, which will be adopted next month.


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