Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Cutting food waste, overeating could help eliminate famine: researchers

Ingredients believed to be those of auspicious Japanese "ehomaki" sushi rolls popular around the Setsubun festival are seen piling up in trash containers, in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Feb. 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

TOKYO -- Reducing food waste and excessive eating in advanced countries are among an array of measures that could contribute to eliminating famine across the globe and shedding food demand by some 9% from estimated volumes by 2030, according to a study by a team of researchers from Ritsumeikan University and other institutions.

The team analyzed optimal sustainability scenarios as over 820 million people across the world are said to be facing starvation. While the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to eradicate famine by 2030, it is feared that boosting food production could adversely affect the environment. Environmental damage could include destruction of forests to make way for farmland and a rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural and livestock sectors.

Researchers estimated the food production volumes and farmland that will be necessary as of 2030, as well as their environmental impact including greenhouse gas emissions at the time, all in proportion to population and economic growth. The team then compared the required amount of food production and other elements under different scenarios. In the first scenario, famine would be eliminated by distributing more food to countries regardless of whether they are developed or not. In another one, food would be distributed predominantly to impoverished countries while cutting back on waste and excessive consumption in developed countries.

Analysis showed that the energy consumed by a person each day will rise from 2,770 kilocalories in 2010 to 2,940 kilocalories in 2030 in accordance with global economic growth. The results also indicate that an additional 1.8 billion metric tons of agricultural produce will be necessary in 2030 compared to 2010 levels, while farmland will need to be expanded by 48 million hectares. If food were distributed across the board to combat famine, it would be necessary to boost the production of all sorts of food -- from agricultural, livestock to other products -- by 20% above current predictions.

In contrast, the required food production volumes would decline by 9% from current forecasts if measures including intensive food distribution and food waste reduction were implemented. The necessary farmland would accordingly decrease by around 8%, sparing some areas from deforestation. Greenhouse gas emissions emanating from farming and other activities would also drop by approximately 21%.

Tomoko Hasegawa, an associate professor at Ritsumeikan University who specializes in environmental system engineering, commented, "To address famine, it is essential to properly distribute food to the needy by trimming the amount of foodstuffs that people throw away or overeat, instead of just focusing on food production hikes alone."

The research team published the outcome of its analysis in the British science journal Nature Sustainability on Sept. 10.

(Japanese original by Ai Oba, Science & Environment News Department)

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media