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Another Reason Against GMO – Food Waste

If you listen to pro-GMO advocates, the number one reason they tell you why we need genetically-modified food is because there is no other way to feed the world.

Not for one second do I believe this claim and as I have mentioned before, hunger is a political issue. For example, the people in North Korea are starving because their leader doesn’t want to feed them. It has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of food.

I went to a fascinating talk yesterday co-hosted by Eating Liberally-NYC and Kitchen Table Talks where I learned yet another argument against the need for GMO — food waste.

At the lecture, Jonathan Bloom, author of the book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food, talked about the tremendous amount of food wasted in this country and the statistics are staggering.

1) 40% of all food grown and produced in the U.S. is wasted.

2) 150 billion pounds of food each year is wasted.

3) The amount of food wasted each year has a value of approximately $150 billion.

Another very critical aspect of this problem is the environmental cost. Food that is sent to a landfill and not composted is a major contributor to global warming — it is the number two source of human-related methane gas. Jonathan said that only about 3% of U.S. food waste is composted, a number which I think is very high. My unscientific guess is that it is a lot lower.

Furthermore, he went on to say that food waste is responsible for 2% of energy consumption in our country.

So, why exactly are we wasting so much food?

* Food is cheap Well, organic food isn’t cheap but conventionally-grown food is.

* Food is abundant Think about those “all you can eat” buffets and all those restaurants whose main sales pitch is huge portions.

* Superficiality How many times do you go to a farmer’s market and not buy a tomato because it has some type of small deformity? Think about how many times you go to a supermarket and not buy certain vegetables because it doesn’t look “perfect”. I am certainly guilty of this.

And then think about the people who are selling these “defective looking” fruits or vegetables. They toss out so much food that is not aesthetically pleasing because they know that consumers expect food to be perfect-looking.

* Expiration Dates Another one that I am guilty of. Does anyone ask the food what its expiration date is? No. It is some person, who most likely deals with liability and lawsuits, that puts an expiration date on food. Is food really inedible or dangerous to eat once it passes an expiration date? Maybe a very small percentage is but certainly not everything.

I walked away with three key learnings from this talk.

One, I am going to be much more diligent in the food that I buy — I will buy smaller amounts of food, I will not be so concerned about perfect looking food and I will make my own judgments about expiration dates.

Two, I am going to start composting, even if NYC does not make this an easy thing to do.

Three, I now have something new to bring up whenever I speak to someone who thinks GMO-food is the only way to feed the world. While I firmly believe that the GMO-food argument is flawed and that organic food is the only way to feed everyone on the planet, reducing food waste will dramatically decrease the amount we need to produce.

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