EU Wastes Much More Food Than It Imports Every Year, Study Finds

Hundreds of boxes of cauliflower discarded in a field
Boxes of cauliflower discarded in a field. Feedback Global
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The European Union (EU) wastes much more food than it imports each year, according to a new report by Feedback EU, “No Time to Waste.”

The EU wastes about 169 million tons of food annually, twice as much as was previously estimated, reported The Guardian. That’s about 16.5 million tons more than it imports, the study said.

“At a time of high food prices and a cost of living crisis, it’s a scandal that the EU is potentially throwing away more food than it’s importing,” said Frank Mechielsen, the director of Feedback EU, as The Guardian reported. “The EU now has a massive opportunity to set legally binding targets to halve its food waste from farm to fork by 2030 to tackle climate change and improve food security.”

The study said the EU wastes as much wheat as about half what Ukraine exports.

Binding objectives to curb the outrageous amount of food being wasted are expected to be put forth by the European Commission by the end of this year, reported The Brussels Times. The commission will officially adopt the targets in 2023.

A statement by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and 42 other groups from 20 countries in the EU implored European officials to legally require EU member states to cut food waste in half by 2030, and to include farm waste in the total.

Following negotiations between the European Council and the European Parliament, food waste objectives will be determined.

The cost of the EU’s food imports last year was about $150 billion.

The EEB determined that about a fifth of food produced by the EU ends up as waste, and lowering this amount by the end of the decade could end up conserving about 11.6 million acres of cropland.

Food waste is responsible for six percent of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said last month food prices around the world were eight percent higher than this time last year, in part due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, reported The Guardian.

In the past, the agri-food industry has considered wasting food more beneficial than being efficient, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems Olivier De Schutter said, as The Guardian reported.

“At both ends of the food chain it’s expensive to reduce waste and it is profitable to sell people more food than they need,” De Schutter said, as reported by The Guardian. “Sell-by dates are also set in a way that obliges people to buy more than they can actually consume.”

The EEB would like there to be legally-binding procedures for reducing food waste throughout the entire food supply chain.

The report found that about 99 million tons of food waste originates in primary production, three times what is produced by households. Since measurements of waste in the EU have a tendency not to record unused, unharvested and unsold food on farms, most of this waste likely goes undocumented.

“All EU countries had committed to halve food waste within the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. However, almost 10 years later, they have not achieved much, and our economies still generate incredibly high amounts of food waste,” said senior policy officer for the EEB Piotr Barczak, as The Guardian reported.

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