Food Waste: Who to blame?

We hear about food waste a lot. Globally we waste about 35% of food. About 45% in the UK.

I’m never sure how this is worked out to be honest or what actually counts as waste. Are potato peelings and apple cores waste?

Anyway, it sounds bad and we should be more careful.

However, with Covid and with EU Agriculture laws, food waste is happening at a bigger level. Due to supply chain breakdowns one farmer from the US who was interviewed was burying 100,000lbs of onions. Other veg that hadn’t been picked was just ploughed back into to the ground as demand dropped.

Equally the EU has been responsible for paying farmers to produce surplus food, and then destroying it. Think of the legendary butter mountain being.

One reason for this is to exploit Africa. The EU pays farmers for surpluses, then exports the surplus to parts of Africa. Because of the subsidy, EU milk us cheaper than African milk and thus undercuts the locals. They then cannot afford to continue farming and the EU takes over completely. As the only supplier they can then alter prices as they wish. Pretty sneaky and exploitative.

As the subsidies drop though, this is no longer viable so surpluses are destroyed as African farmers start up again and refuse EU products. This was one of the reasons farmers protested recently by throwing milk powder on EU buildings. You can’t really blame them, they just thought they were selling excess to the EU to distribute. It is not as if the EU advertise the destruction of local economies.

Similarly, in Russia authorities bulldozed “illegal” Western food that had entered the country. There is plenty of food poverty in Russia but they felt the political image of a bulldozer rolling over food was better than giving it out to the starving.

Obviously this also is producing a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions and wasting money as we pay people to produce and then destroy. To go further, think of all the pesticides and antibiotics used in this too.

We should be careful not to waste food but there is a world of difference from throwing away some bread that “smells funny”, and paying to create and destroy food at an industrial scale.

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