‘Zero hunger’ also means preventing food waste

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One of the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations adopted on 25 September 2015 was ‘zero hunger’ by 2030. It aims to “end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round”.

But as things stand now, according to the World Food Programme, 795 million people worldwide are still suffering from hunger, and two thirds of them live in Asia. Based on various projections, the number of people in the world is set to rise to 9.8 billion in 2050. That means it is crucial to come up with production methods that provide suitable nourishment for everybody. The UN’s goal is in no way a foregone conclusion.

Zero hunger: USD 160 billion of food goes to rot

One of the dreadful ironies in considering the challenge of resolving the world’s hunger problem is that one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste. In the US, for example, households throw away more than USD 160 billion-worth of food a year. But it’s not just about wasting food that has been bought.

The problem of food waste occurs all along the farm-to-fork production and supply chain. It occurs in farming areas in many developing countries that lack an efficient transport, processing and storage infrastructure that would minimise food spoiling before it can be eaten.

Zero hunger: ‘imperfect’, but edible

And it frequently arises from developed world supermarket chains taking ‘imperfect’ (yet perfectly edible) food off their shelves, from where most of it ends in landfills to become a potent source of methane and other unwanted emissions.

In much of the world, the packaging and display of food involves plastic trays, containers and wrapping, which – apart from adding to the global epidemic of plastic waste in landfills and the oceans – is often inappropriate for the longevity of the food itself.

One solution would be to use recyclable and biodegradable plastic packaging to keep food longer, while adhering to strict standards of hygiene. With today’s apparent addition to plastic, this is clearly a major challenge.

Source: Why the Global Movement for Zero Hunger Needs You, Ban Ki-moon, 22/09/2016

Opportunities to invest in innovation

Yet there are many companies innovating in this and other areas of food waste prevention, from land and water use optimisation, through efficient transportation, more effective processing and packing technologies and ‘greener’ storage/display solutions.

In our view, such companies look to be poised for a bright future. The inevitable growth demand they are seeking to respond to suggests that investing in them could bring financial as well as environmental gains over the coming years.

Alexandre Jeanblanc

Investment Specialist, SRI

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