This column was drafted 2 years ago but the numbers mentioned in this in depth analysis below are still very accurate because nothing has been done to address such a staggering problem. As a matter of fact, let’s not fool ourselves, the food waste crisis deepens further as time goes by. Moreover the topic of food waste really highlights and connects important dots, which should compel anybody to follow Alice down this bottomless rabbit hole…. Going there will turn one into a real Earth Custodian!
The Countdown To A Money-Free Society Has Started
Although this investigation aims at delving into the deception that is ‘food waste’, ‘water waste’ too is a highly disturbing topic that will be thoroughly investigated in a future column. For the moment, just remember that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization report (FAO) indicates that we currently extract less than 10% of the 43,750 cubic kilometers of fresh water (see 1st link next paragraph) returning each year to the Earth’s rivers, lakes and aquifers. One inevitable question pops into mind: is this just plain carelessness or eco-terrorism? How does it come that despite the so many technological advances, we have not been more efficient globally at redistributing our ‘blue gold’ which Life depends upon but can spend hundreds of billions on standing armies, and now A.I weaponry? As a matter of fact, aquifers can be found almost everywhere. It is more about how deep one is willing to drill to reach them. The climate change argument stands no chance here. The most cynical perhaps is that the ‘sodas industry’ unscrupulously exploits aquifers to manufacture their drinks (containing toxic high corn syrup and hazardous dyes) and which are bottled in plastic containing some 24,000 chemicals wrecking our bodies havoc . So much for our world CEOs and lawmakers who are supposed to have graduated in the most prestigious colleges. Could education itself turn out being a massive farce?
Now back to our ‘food waste’ issue. The same FAO, along with the Stockholm International Water Institute and the International Water Management Institute concluded that close to half of all foods produced worldwide – are wasted after production. Another source mentions that some 54 percent of the world’s food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, while 46 percent occurs at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. And of course, these large quantities of wasted food go along with a staggering water waste. What is truly fascinating and discombobulating at once here is that while the waste happens at the consumer level in industrialized countries, developing countries are dominated by high losses at the post-harvest and processing stage. The absurdity here is that Western organizations probing food waste in poor countries accuse a lack of efficient technology and modern infrastructure. Exactly what do enjoy high-income countries where the appalling waste is created nonetheless. Additionally, another damning FAO report claims that 1/3 of the food (representing £470bn economic loss and 3.3bn tonnes of CO2 emissions globally every year) produced never reaches our plates and we’d need 50% more food to feed world populations by 2030. Do you see the aberration and hypocrisy at play here? Whether one believes in ‘climate change’ or not, it doesn’t matter, this mismanagement is converted into taxes. Moreover, we must start wondering: do we have an overpopulation problem or failure of leadership? It is really time to take a deep breath in and carefully analyze this because the answer is very crucial, the latter will eventually determine the fate of Mankind. We stand at crossroads and they are only two directions possible. One of which is the path to self-extinction, and the other, reclaiming our sovereignty.
Produce and go broke anyway! While many, who do not grasp the ill-effects linked to our food chain, might think that it would be easier to sue corporations all together to resolve the outrageous conundrum, it doesn’t work that way as multinationals operate for profits. Food retailers have the habit to shift their losses onto consumers, all of which in the form of inflation. Additionally, retailers also contribute to waste as a result of their contractual arrangements with suppliers. Failure to supply agreed quantities renders farmers or processors liable to have their contracts canceled. As a consequence, they plan to produce more than actually required to meet the contract, to have a margin of error. Surplus production is often simply disposed. Such coercive business attitudes make it easy to figure out why farmers and retailers too cause food spikes. They too have commitments to meet. Sure, there are other deceiving and irrational factors behind price hikes -such as unnecessary strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free and the demand for cosmetically perfect food – but if supermarkets throw out food or donate it to food banks, at the end of the day, it really wouldn’t make any difference: they must keep Wall Street Shareholders happy. By the way, the not so appealing edible foods cost America $160bn yearly. Reporting honestly such staggering losses would cause a global stock market crash overnight. The fear factor helps evil prosper. Lawmakers as well as consumers want to keep their jobs. So, until this unsustainable framework collapses under its own weight, lies and food inflation are here to stay, it is just too bad for consumers. To add to the injury, let’s keep in the back of our minds that the ‘conventionally grown’ label implies GMOs and the heavy use of pesticides. But don’t you worry, Queen Elizabeth and Obama have their own organic gardens since 2009.
The Century of The Self and its pursuit of happiness ‘spelling doom’. As a matter of fact, the structure of our food chain rests on the factories and retailers which must keep us into a consuming frenzy mode as if there were no tomorrows. Look at the amount of food oriented TV commercials and ads in magazines. Our lives are enchained to theirs but it only can end at the expense of the many since nobody can live on ‘borrowed times’ for ever.
The intended failure of humanitarian aid. The topic of food waste alone is enough to grasp that aid is colonialism in disguise. Let’s take a brief look at the fundamental dynamics of humanitarian aid. Its hugest downside is that it depresses a country’s economy by slowing down factories. And who says less production, says less jobs. Then ‘the velocity of money’ sets the downward spiral into motion. And because the economy is kept (artificially) depressed, there is less tax revenues, and governments are forced into odious and illegitimate debts to operate, which only make the matters worst. It goes without saying that such governments are very weak and thus subjected to be overthrown unexpectedly. This generally leads to a currency breakdown (with risk of civil wars or guerrillas fighting), which turns out being a huge bounty for world corporations since the economic conditions allow them to buy everything for pennies on the dollar. So indeed, under such circumstances, how could developing countries prevent food waste better? How can they improve their infrastructure? And further, what does it tell about our Humanitarian Organizations? How can the The American Red Cross CEO accept an over half a million dollar salary, and that of the UNICEF receive more than $1 million without feeling any remorse? Let’s now digress a little bit: and what about the best paid religious NGOs leaders. Take a look at the top 25 compensation packages while you are at it, it is only one click away. What do we make of all those pictures of starving children appearing on our TV screens on regular basis? The scandals of humanitarian and foreign aid alike expose the monetization of poverty. Volunteering and acting locally is the only fashion to make it worthwhile. Of course, the skyrocketing amount of food waste, is now a dire concern among humanitarian organizations. The only core question here remains: why didn’t they see anything come?
A Closer Look At The Global Madness. Using 2011 retail prices, the avoidable food waste in the United States (for the year 2009) has a total retail value of 197.7 billion USD. Consumer waste alone amounts to 124.1 billion USD, or nearly 63 percent of the total retail value of wasted food (Venkat 2011). Danielle Nierenberg co-project director of the Worldwatch Institute contends that 31 million tons end in landfills or incinerators each year. That’s roughly equivalent to the weight of 74 Golden Gate bridges!
With 47 million on food stamps, America is literally becoming a Food Stamp Nation. CBS reported in September (2014) that The House has voted to cut nearly $4 billion a year from food stamps, a 5% reduction to the nation’s main feeding program used by more than 1 in 7 Americans: this will force 47.7m People to live on less than one meal a day. The cost of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -SNAP- has more than doubled since 2008, coming to nearly $78 billion last year. (washingtonpost/2013/09/23). While this clearly shows that the SNAP doesn’t address the food waste and is thus a mere scheme to waste taxpayers’ money, a pertinent question surfaces: why aren’t food stamp recipients allowed to get their groceries directly from their local food banks instead? Don’t worry, it will simply never happen as long as so many profit on waste. Meanwhile Doctors lobby against food stamp reductions.
Obesity becoming a plague in the so-called rich nations. As a response, the British grocery giant Tesco vowed on 21.10.2013 to reduce the nearly 60,000 tons of food wasted by its suppliers and shoppers each year. As part of the measures, Tesco said it would end a range of multiple-buy offers, which encourage consumers to over-buy. Simultaneously, studies show that western countries consume every day a surplus of 1400 calories per person for a total of 150 trillion calories a year. The article continues: ‘Times have changed, overabundance times are over and the costs of this irresponsible and inefficient behavior are increasing. The world population has grown tenfold and hunger is still persistent and growing –also in Europe-, the EU has constant and unsustainable yearly deficit of 75 million tons of biomass with the rest of the world, the costs of disposal for waste continue to increase and EU legislation pushes in prevention’. We should all shake our heads in disbelief here. So not only seeds are manipulated genetically (think Monsanto), crops are too sprayed with various pesticides, food getting additional chemical treatments and irradiated during processing, all of which destroys nutrients and causes cravings, making us sick and put on weight. You see, corporations cash in on all ends of spectrum. And Big Pharma Inc, is there to help. Have you ever heard, by any chance, a commercial on TV praising healthy and balanced diets with organic wholesome foods then citing all the side effects of conventional supermarket items? If they do so when featuring prescription drugs, why not about food? Under such circumstances, what to think of the pharmaceutical, diet and fitness industries? Many people have no idea how dire our situation really is.
Same gloomy picture in the UK and EU. One-fifth of what households buy ends up as waste, and around 60% of that could have been eaten, according to a report from the government’s waste advisory group, Wrap. (theguardian.com/environment/2013). In Britain every year 18 million tonnes of food still perfectly edible are thrown away by households alone for an annual retail value cost of 14 billion pounds: at the same time 4 million people in the UK do not have access to a healthy diet (zerowasteeurope.eu/2010/12). Wasting food and hunger side by side is scandalous. In France only, each citizen throws away every year 7kgs of food still in the original package when in the same country, 8 million people are at risk of poverty.
In March 2013, according to a study by the European Commission, 89 million tonnes or 179 Kg per capita of food are wasted every year in the European Union. By 2020 this could increase by over 40%. Well, cynically we should rejoice at the prospect that if the IMF 10% Supertax Bail-in Proposal on all Eurozone household savings, is passed, such an increase will most likely not come true… but let’s not fool ourselves: in this economic environment, buying less will too result in more food price inflation. However, inflation cannot go on forever. At some point, hyperinflation sets in and completely destroys the purchasing power.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, up to 150kgs of food produced is lost per person every year, according to FAO research.(guardian.uk). In the region, there are at least 265 million people hungry, heightening the travesty of the food waste problem. More than a quarter of the food produced in Africa spoils before it is eaten.
So indeed, under such circumstances, how could developing countries prevent food waste better? How can they improve their infrastructure? And further, what does it tell about our Humanitarian Organizations? How can the The American Red Cross CEO accept an over half a million dollar salary, and that of the UNICEF receive more than $1 million without feeling any remorse?
As China has enjoyed a boom over the past two decades, food waste has too become a major concern. According to WorldWatch Institute, more than $32 billion of food is thrown away in China annually, although 128 million Chinese live below the poverty line and often lack sufficient food. (usa.chinadaily.com). But that’s China only. An estimated 42 percent of the fruit and vegetables and 20 percent of the grain produced in the Asia Pacific region are lost or wasted. In short: 1.3 billion ton of food, enough to feed 3 billion people – are lost annually.
More banking data. While the West gets fatter and sicker, The World Bank Food Price Index rose by 60 percent in the course of just a few months of 2008, and international prices of maize, rice, and wheat increased by 70 percent, 180 percent, and 120 percent, respectively, compared to the mid-2007. Between 2000 and 2012, the World Bank global food price index increased 104.5 percent, at an average annual rate of 6.5 percent. But the spikes affect everything. For example: The wholesale price index (WPI), India’s main inflation measure, climbed to 6.46 percent last month – its fastest rate since February – pushed up by food prices such as a 322 percent jump in onion prices, government data showed (Reuters: 10.14.13). Here the inflation index just follows the supply and demand, though it is outrageously misleading as we throw out food like never before. As you can see, inflation also causes scarcity since everything becomes more expensive. It should be obvious to all by now that The World Bank pretends to address a distress that it helps sustain in the first place. The squeeze can only worsen and there is a brick wall forming on the horizon.
Rightfully, the UN warns of looming worldwide food crisis in 2013… and we can trust that with such trends, the threat hasn’t gone away. Rising food prices will threaten disaster and unrest and much of it will be blamed on the global warming, although records show that earth temperatures have never been constant. However, this UN statement is very enlightening and proves we cannot trust the organization. The UN perfectly knows the prime cause of food waste but then double-speaks as if it never read the investigations of its own FAO department.
To add to the injury, the hypocritical UN claims that:
‘We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming’. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the FAO…. The UN figures come as one of the world’s leading environmentalists, Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Research Center in Washington, says that the climate is no longer reliable and the demands for food are growing so fast that a breakdown is inevitable… the global food supply system could collapse at any point, leaving hundreds of millions more people hungry, sparking widespread riots and bringing down governments. Lester goes on: Food shortages undermined earlier civilizations. We are on the same path. Each country is now fending for itself. The world is living one year to the next,’ he writes in a new book. According to Lester Brown, we are seeing the start of a food supply breakdown with a dash by speculators to “grab” millions of square miles of cheap farmland, the doubling of international food prices in a decade, and the dramatic rundown of countries’ food reserves.
THE SMOKING GUN. While we shouldn’t trust global warming theories too fast, Lester Brown knows that the system is predatory and pretends to play the visionary. This is a sobering and revolting outcome awaiting us around the corner. It is what globalization has always meant to be about. In April 2013, worldwatch.org established that the global population grew by 3.8 billion or 122.9 percent between 1961 and 2010, net per capita food production increased by 49 percent over this period. This is a smoking gun: the two-digit number just mentioned matches our current global food waste! And this figure doesn’t take into account the yearly 15 trillion calories surplus in the West stipulated above! Overpopulation theory is (another) giant distortion which makes people hope for wars. Have you ever heard :’we need a war, we can’t feed the whole planet anymore’? Such a train of thoughts comes from either intellectual laziness or a lack of access to information.
The Insanity of Our Food Policy. The former World bank economist, Joseph Stiglitz, sheds more light on farms subsidies in America that have been implemented since the Great Depression and which can be illustrated with the slogan ‘taking from the poor to subsidize the rich’. The slogan is now a worldwide fact. Although Stiglitz unfortunately agrees that those subsidies were necessary when the depression was raging, he misses the mark. What really caused the Great Depression that rippled through Europe is an unprecedented bank driven credit binge, which also is responsible for the 2008 crash, which in turn exposed the derivatives industry as the ultimate pool of toxic assets that contaminated the Old Continent and even countries like Iceland. The MSM will never tell us how the current US and European financial crises dire are. Nothing has changed, the The Federal Reserve and EBC’ Quantitative Easings just patched the surface but underneath it, the world economy is still contracting. It is however puzzling that Stiglitz who came out as a whistleblower more than a decade ago to decries the WB actions in developing countries (aimed at land grabbing on a large scale after saddling countries with more debts they could possibly repay), will not say that this very same scenario now playing everywhere in developing and developed countries alike. News are being fragmented on purpose. It is up to us to assemble the puzzle. But, forget about Stiglitz and Lester Browm, John Perkins author of ‘Confessions of An Economic Hit Man‘, a NYtimes best-seller a few years ago, tells it all on youtube.
Farm subsidies, what are they good for? They simply are designed to eliminate competition over time. Everybody would support a family farmer but that’s quite another thing to subsidize the expansion of a mega-farm that puts smaller farms out of business. It is now a fact that mega-farms, the top 10 percent of farmers, collected 74% of all subsidies, amounting to nearly $166 billion over 16 years! The real winners in the subsidy explosion since the mid-’90s have clearly been the animal feedlot operators and the largest corporate mega-farms. Suppliers like Monsanto and big grain traders. The bottom 80% of recipients averaged just $587 a year. Mega-farms pocket billions of dollars while food waste is at record high… do the maths? Who benefits? Organic sellout: USDA guts organic rules to protect (animal) Mega-Farms. The UK, this is much of the same: ‘mega farms’ help keep food prices down, say experts (11/2013). Prices low? At the expense of our health? By the way, did you know that among the number of landowners claiming a slice of the £3.5bn subsidy in the UK, EU subsidy recipients include the Queen and the Duke of Westminster? Mega-Farms do not only bankrupt smaller competitors, they also are toxic at many levels: Animals bred on those feedlots deal with a great amount of stress from birth to slaughter, which makes their meat improper to consumption since stress releases toxins in the blood stream. Because those feedlots are cesspools breeding bacteria, they get massive antibiotic injections on a regular basis but most of them remain sick til the end.
Bloomberg.com once wrote that The World’s 2170 Billionaires Control $33 Trillion In Net Worth, Double The US GDP. What the article didn’t speak of is the ‘Armada of Millionaires and Multimillionaires’ working either directly with or for them. They’ve got what they always wanted: the privtization of the world. And all this was done in the broad daylight while we were burying our heads into the sand, hypnotizing ourselves with ‘the laws of attraction’ or ‘don’t speak of evil, just ignore it and it will go away’ type of thinking, running on the debt treadmill to make ends meet or buy the latest IT gadgets, watching dumbing down reality TV shows or Hollywood Super-Heroes type of entertainment, boozing, over-eating and… carelessly wasting food.
A shift in Awareness is needed. Having access to wholesome organic food should not be regarded as a privilege but an absolute human right. Most people are oblivious to this very ethical issue because of the way we value Life and wealth. As long as there is a widespread consensus accepting that the more successful has more rights, things will go from bad to worse – and possibly lead to our extinction now that planetary pollution has reached unprecedented levels. Indeed, what can truly be deemed organic under such circumstances?