The facts are clear. We waste or lose 30%-40% percent of our food every year. One recent estimate reports that Americans are throwing away the equivalent of $165 billion each year. This is a policy imperative and one that should be in the interest of all sides – producers, retailers, communities and families. This is an issue that with the right policies will bring wins to all sides as well, including more products in the market, more food to feed a growing world population, and less waste in landfills. The U.S. has one the of the most advanced food production and food delivery systems in the world, we can also step up with advancements in science and technology to address food waste and loss.
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As I write, final touches are being made to the highly anticipated TEEBAgriFood report. It has been my honor and joy to serve on the Steering Committee overseeing this initiative supported by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. From the onset, our TEEBAgriFood goals were bold and ambitious: to contribute a framework approach for understanding the externalities of food production and to incite a global network of scholars dedicated to disclosing and valuing those externalities. The perfectionist in me knows that our work surely needs fine-tuning – how could it not, given its breadth and depth – but I am satisfied that this work is ready for prime time and as written, could potentially be a game-changer.
When you hear the term “hydroponic,” do you first think of basement marijuana growers or boutique microgreens destined to garnish a cafe’s offering of avocado toast? Instead, what you should be thinking of is feeding the planet and conserving natural resources. We face a number of challenges as an increasingly global and complex food system struggles to feed an ever-growing population with an ever-growing appetite for more resource-intensive food. This increased demand is spurred by both population growth and rising incomes, with the majority of that growth in demand occurring in South Asia and Africa.
When Science magazine named CRISPR, the most powerful and recognized tool for editing genes, its “Breakthrough of the Year” in 2015, the reasons were obvious. CRISPR lets bioengineers target specific DNA sequences for genetic modification, allowing them to “edit” the genes of any plant or animal (including humans) without the introduction of foreign DNA. Moreover, because CRISPR is relatively easy and cheap to use, it is democratizing genetic engineering. As one Harvard scientist said, “any molecular biology lab that wants to do CRISPR can.”
Ever confused by the myriad of date labels at your local grocery store? Look around and you’ll see foods displaying “sell by” dates, while others are marked with “use by”, “best before”, “fresh until”, “enjoy by”, “expires on”, or “packed on” dates; some simply show a date with no descriptor. What do all of these dates really mean?