National Geographic : 2016 Mar
36 national geographic • march 2016 good roads, and refrigeration. In comparison, developed nations waste more food farther down the supply chain, when retailers order, serve, or display too much and when consumers ignore leftovers in the back of the fridge or toss perish- ables before they ’ve expired. Wasting food takes an environmental toll as well. Producing food that no one eats—wheth- er sausages or snickerdoodles—also squanders the water, fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, fuel, and land needed to grow it. The quantities aren’t trivial. Globally a year’s production of uneaten food guzzles as much water as the entire annual flow of the Volga, Europe’s most voluminous river. Growing the 133 billion pounds of food that retailers and consumers discard in the United States annually slurps the equivalent of more than 70 times the amount of oil lost in the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon disas- ter, according to American Wasteland author Jonathan Bloom. These staggering numbers don’t even include the losses from farms, fishing vessels, and slaughterhouses. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, after China and the U.S. On a planet of finite resources, with the expectation of at least two billion more res- idents by 2050, this profligacy, Stuart argues in his book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, is obscene. Others have been making similar arguments for years, but reducing food waste has become a matter of international urgency. Some U.S. schools, where children dump up to 40 percent of their lunches into the trash, are setting up sharing tables, letting students serve themselves portions they know they’ll eat, allotting more time for lunch, and scheduling it after recess— all proven methods of boosting consumption. Countless businesses, such as grocery stores, Thirty percent of the mandarin crop in Huaral, Peru, won’t meet exacting export standards. Most of the rejects will be eaten locally. Globally 46 percent of fruits and vegetables never make it from farm to fork.