Reducing Food Waste Is Good for Economy and Climate, Report Says
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A new report, Strategies to Achieve Economic and Environmental Gains by Reducing Food Waste, documents what could be saved by reducing food waste, both in money spent by consumers and governments, and stress on the planet and its climate.
The UK-based the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which produced the study for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, cites figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) that one third of all food ends up as waste, with a global cost of more than $400 billion annually. That could increase to $600 billion within a decade as the world population in general and its heavily consuming middle class in particular grow around the world. But reducing that waste could save between $120 and $300 billion a year and limit some of the stresses on the planet caused by the food production system.
“Food waste is a global issue and tackling it is a priority," said Dr. Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at WRAP. "This report emphasizes the benefits that can be obtained for businesses, consumers and the environment. The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings. [This report] produced international guidance on how to achieve that through implementing effective food waste prevention strategies that can be used across the world."
The report estimated that in the UK, the cost of disposing of this food waste is about $450 million; in the U.S. it could be as high as $1.5 billion.
WRAP cites programs have already been tried and have been successful in reducing waste. In the UK, WRAP's own Love Food Hate Waste program aimed at consumers reduced food waste by about 21 percent and saved about $2.1 million. The group has also worked with manufacturers and groceries to improve packaging and storage to better protect food and reduce the amount ultimately thrown away. Something as simple as reducing refrigeration temperature slightly can have big impact on the amount of food that ends up thrown away. The report also pointed to concerted efforts in countries like Norway and Japan that had dramatically cut waste.
The study suggested that consumers might spend the money saved on additional, higher value food purchases, while governments would save on the amount of food carted to landfills, which could then be directed to other purposes.
But it points to an even more significant benefit: cutting that waste could be a significant factor in addressing climate change in a couple of ways. One is a reduction in methane emitted from landfills. Another is a reduction in the climate cost of the food production process, with less land, water and fuel needed to grow the same amount of food and move it to market. The report estimates that 7 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food waste, not a huge amount but still significant.
“Reducing food waste is good for the economy and good for the climate," said Helen Mountford, global program director for the New Climate Economy, a project of the Global Commission on Economy and the Climate.
"Less food waste means greater efficiency, more productivity and direct savings for consumers. It also means more food available to feed the estimated 805 million that go to bed hungry each day. Reducing food waste is also a great way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. These findings should serve as a wakeup call to policymakers around the world.”
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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