As the world recognises the first-ever International Day of Zero Waste, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is pinpointing the importance of utilizing biotechnology to reduce waste and pollution while promoting a sustainable environment.
“We must use existing biological resources more efficiently, and waste less, instead of relying on finite fossil-based resources,” said Qu Dongyu, director of (FAO).
Qu Dongyu, who was speaking at a high-level event held at the UN General Assembly to commemorate the first-ever International Day of Zero Waste said that as the world population is predicted to grow close to 10 billion people by 2050, there is an immense challenge to meet the rapidly growing global demand for food and non-food agricultural products—projected to increase by up to 56 per cent by 2050.
“To meet this extra demand for agricultural inputs, including food, fibre, fuel and fodder, in an equitable and sustainable way… We must produce and consume in a more sustainable and healthier manner, with fewer inputs”, Qu underscored, adding that a circular and sustainable economy offers systemic solutions to address these challenges.
The director-general highlighted that bioeconomy is a current FAO strategic priority to reduce waste and pollution, as it values and promotes responsible production and consumption of renewable natural resources, contributing to climate action, biodiversity conservation and ecosystems restoration.
“For example, waste and residues along agrifood systems can be turned into beneficial products such as biomaterials, biochemicals, biopharmaceuticals, and bioenergy. In the bioeconomy, there is no such thing as waste!”, Qu emphasized.
The current challenge of waste in agrifood systems
FAO estimates that more than 13 per cent of global food production is lost between the production and wholesale stages of the supply chain. Furthermore, global data indicates that an additional 17 per cent is wasted at the retail, food service, and consumer stages. Food quality is also compromised throughout the entire supply chain.
These losses occur while over 800 million people are undernourished and almost 3.1 billion cannot afford a healthy diet. Moreover, food loss and waste contribute to 8 to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The FAO director warned the 193 members of the UN General Assembly that wasting food and non-food agricultural products, as well as inputs like plastics, puts unnecessary pressure on the environment.
“It essentially means that we have wasted land and water resources, we have created pollution and we have emitted greenhouse gases with no purpose,” he said.
Qu urged world leaders to identify the hotspots where losses and waste occur and to urgently address the inefficiencies and inequalities in global agrifood systems to make them more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable.
“Reducing losses and waste will not only contribute to our environment, but increase the availability of fruits and vegetables, and improve access to healthy diets,” he emphasized.