Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

Fighting food waste

France has stolen Italy’s thunder by passing a law on the crime of food waste that has sparked immediate approval thanks also to the media’s interest in the food issues raised by EXPO 2015. Our country is discussing this issue as well with at least two regions having passed laws to support the fight against food waste.
This is one of those topics that has led to immediate support as it is linked to the problem of denutrition and malnutrition to which the Milan Charter dedicated some passages. It therefore deserves careful consideration without media limelight and hullabaloo.
The concept of waste refers to the excessive and inefficient use of goods and resources. In the case of food waste, the French law concentrates on food at the large-retailer level. Even those who follow in their footsteps do the same thing but with minor differences. However, the issue of waste is far more complex, with at least two points of view to be considered: agricultural products and foodstuffs, on the one hand, and the resources used to produce them, on the other. Indeed, waste –if we want to continue to call it that – starts in the fields when production is partly lost as a result of normal adversities. It continues through harvest and then post-harvest owing to the inadequacies and limits of the methods and techniques used, proceeding to the pallets used in retail outlets and finally to household management, which apparently accounts for the greatest losses.
But there are also the resources wasted through inadequate or outdated techniques as well as by not using the optimal ones due to ideological nonsense that wants to return to outdated practices disproved by science and economy, or even refusing to use the results of advances in science, agronomics, and technology. In short, those resources that everybody, with empty words, wants to preserve and exploit, are wasted.
Nor does it end there as there is the exaggerated pursuit of food safety that the adopted standards more than guarantee but which is repeatedly called into question, as if we did not know how to impose controls, affecting products by creating panic with a resulting refusal to eat or drink them. Lately a study on apples by a large environmental organization has been in the news:  according to its authors, their 36 water samples and 49 soil samples cover all of Europe.
Then let us consider that the triumph of gastronomic delights, EXPO’s heart, imply an increase in food waste and the selection of varieties that are less productive or were abandoned because of bad preservability or low nutritional contents. Thus, it turns out that the French law focuses on large retailers when the greatest inefficiencies are not ascribable to them.
Perhaps the waste problem could be reduced if there were less willingness to play policeman by enacting laws and if the desire for serious competition grew that would lead to a more efficient and productive food sector, thereby reducing the gap between food supply and demand.
After all, agriculture has always done it, especially in the 1960s, thanks to agricultural development and without the debatable laws that have the sad flavor of draconian measures.