Reducing global food waste will also reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Scientists say that up to 14% of all emissions from agriculture could be avoided by 2050, if food use and distribution is better managed.
The research, published in Environmental Science & Technology, says that reducing food waste will not only combat world hunger, but will also mitigate climate-related natural disasters, such as hurricanes and sea-level rise.
Food waste over time
The analysis revealed that currently one third of global food production never finds its way onto plates. As emerging economies such as China and India adopt large-scale food distribution habits, this will also increase.
Jordon Lazell, expert in food waste from Coventry University, told IBTimes UK that 1.4bn hectares of land is used to create food that is ultimately wasted every year – an area greater than China. "If you think of a sandwich that you've thrown away, all of the energy and water in that goes into making that sandwich is thrown away too," said Lazell.
"Think of an old bakery. In the old days it may have only been open until midday, and if you didn't get your bread by then, you weren't getting any at all. But now, we have 24-hour supermarkets that can cause food wastage when it goes unsold," said Lazell.
Currently, around 1.3bn tonnes of food is wasted globally every year, mainly in developed countries. The researchers found that this food waste could increase four-fold by 2050. This is because it is either destroyed in transportation, not bought at a supermarket, or thrown away by the consumer.
Eliminating this excess would reduce unnecessary transport emissions, and the amount of livestock needed for food production. Livestock are currently responsible for around 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
The researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research analysed how the amount of food required for humans has changed between the present day and the past, as well as expectations from future projections. They found that humans need the same amount of food as they did 50 years ago, but the availability of it has rapidly increased.
Ceren Hic, lead author of the study, summarised: "Reducing food waste can contribute to fighting hunger, but to some extent also prevent climate impacts like more intense weather extremes and sea-level rise."