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Food waste exacerbates global food crisis

The average western consumer wastes more than their body weight in food every year, while fruit and vegetable crops in developing nations are decimated by poor refrigeration, primitive transport and unsophisticated packaging.

At a book launch in France recently, International Society of Horticultural Scientists (ISHS) board member and Emeritus Professor Errol Hewett said western consumers bought significantly more than they could eat and routinely threw out kilograms of spoiled produce. "We waste it. We overbuy. There is as much food wasted in the Western world as there is lost in the developing world."

A 2011 Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) report titled Global Food Losses and Food Waste revealed per capita food wasted by consumers in Europe and North-America was 95-115kg/year, while the corresponding figure in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia was only 6-11kg/year.

"If this imbalance could be addressed," Prof Hewett said, "issues of global hunger could be seriously improved."

The ISHS is an independent organisation of horticultural scientists. Its 7500 scientific members, representing 150 countries, say their field holds the secrets to supplying quality fruit, vegetables, flowers, as well as creating open community spaces, for the earth’s projected population of nine billion people by 2045 while conserving water, land, atmosphere, and environment.

Prof Hewett, who is based at Massey University, New Zealand, has launched Harvesting the Sun: A Profile of World Horticulture at a conference in Angers, France.

He said the book traces the farm-to-table journey; highlights innovations in crop breeding, production, and handling; presents recent advances in pest control and disease eradication; promotes food safety; and outlines systems to minimise post-harvest losses in the supply chain from farm to fork.

"Horticulture is an incredibly diverse sector vital to the health and well being of humankind" Prof Hewett said. "It provides a myriad of career opportunities from hi-tech production to research and marketing. It’s not just gardening which is important in its own right."

He said every year horticulture became a more critical and vibrant part of "our growing world" with constant innovations being made to provide new and improved varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers with better appearance, taste and nutritional value as well as natural resistance to pests and diseases.

The need for well-trained young people is growing, even as fewer students pursue academic training in horticulture in many universities around the world. And Government-funded programs connecting producers with horticultural experts are being cut back in many developed nations.

President of the ISHS, Portugal’s Professor Antonio Montiero, said fruit, vegetables, ornamental plants and flowers were essential components of daily life but most people ignored the complexity and value of the industry behind such familiar products. He hoped Harvesting the Sun would show how much horticulture had to offer.

This book is available on line at

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