Last updated at 15:06 GMT, Monday, 14 January 2013

Half of all food wasted

Summary

11 January 2013

Up to half of the world's food is wasted due to inefficient production in poorer countries and over-fussy consumers in the rich world, says a new report from the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Reporter:
Mark Doyle

food waste

The report said half the food bought in Europe and the US ended up in the bin

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Report

The world has limited resources and a growing population. By the end of this century there could be three billion extra mouths to feed. So wasting food, this new report says, is a tragedy that should not continue. The study says changing the way consumers in the rich world reject less-than-perfect-looking vegetables in the shops, and eat large quantities of meat - which requires a lot of resources to bring to market - could have an impact.

But the engineers who wrote this report also recommend better use of scarce land and water around the whole world. They say that putting more land to agriculture will be difficult without damaging the environment, so improving the efficiency of farming is vital. The report says better irrigation is the key here, because water used in agriculture is often sourced badly: from aquifers which are poorly managed. In some cases, the engineers say, governments and aid agencies have exacerbated this problem by sinking boreholes in the wrong places.

The report also says that irrigating crops through spraying or flooding fields is wasteful because so much of the water evaporates. It says that drip or trickle methods of irrigation, while more expensive to install, can be as much as a third more efficient.

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Vocabulary

a growing population

an increasing number of people living in a particular area or place

tragedy

a serious situation or disaster

consumers

people who buy things

agriculture

farming; growing and producing food

irrigation

supplying land with water by artificial means to help crops to grow

aquifers

rocks which contain groundwater

exacerbated

made worse

boreholes

spaces drilled into the ground in order to extract water, gas or minerals

evaporates

loses moisture into the air

trickle

tiny flow of liquid