Blaming consumers, farmers and business for food waste
The Natural Resources Defense Council is trying to drop a big load of guilt on American consumers and the producers of fruits and vegetables about wasting food to a scale that could feed the hungry of the world while also eliminating negative environmental impacts.
First, the NRDC did its food waste study that found Americans are currently tossing up to 40 percent of our food supply, and now, NRDC has taken a closer look at “one primary culprit: Crop Shrink—the significant fruit and vegetable losses on the farm.”
Americans are tossing more in the fruits and vegetables segment of foods than any other, 52 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, according to NRDC. And fruit and vegetable waste is occurring at “a rate higher than any other type of food product at nearly every level of the supply chain.”
The newest study investigates why “mountains of produce never even leave the farm” and what can be done about it. A summary of some of the findings are interesting, although it must be noted that they are compiled from an environmental activist organization’s point of view—without a hands-on understanding of the intricate operations of farming. They are looking in from the outside, and not really providing a cure from top to bottom. Change will involve a major change in consumer attitudes and the way that farmers are paid for what they market.
NRDC says it has revealed what growers have known since the beginning of farming—that produce losses are driven by everything from overplanting, perfectly edible “imperfect produce” leading to culling, market fluctuations, labor shortages and spoilage, and much more.
The potential food solutions don’t seem like real solutions to many outside of NRDC.
- Consumers: can buy “funny fruit”, perfectly edible produce that might be less cosmetically attractive.
- Businesses: can acknowledge the challenges of farming, allowing for the occasional short volume and experimentation in procurement, food recovery and new secondary markets.
- Policy-makers: can expand research on food loss on farms, so we know which crops have the most excess and why. And new legislation can provide tax credit incentives for food donations.
It is interesting to note that NRDC calls Dana Gunders, its “food and agriculture-focused scientist and dynamic food waste warrior.”
“Some of this massive produce loss is happening well before it reaches retailers, as perfectly edible produce is literally being left on the field or sent to the landfill,” wrote Gunders.