Food Waste

November 29, 2012

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Every time I pick up a paper, I read about hungry people. Just to keep pace, we will have to double food production by 2050. If we don’t raise more food, millions will starve. What are we going to do?

O.K. We do have a challenge. However, this year, even with the serious draught, the planet will produce a record grain harvest of 2.4 billion tons. Also, there are millions of underutilized acres of land in Africa that at some point in time will be producing a lot more. Today, their yields aren’t even half what ours are. But with biotechnology and draught-resistant seeds, their yields can increase. We will find ways to ramp up production.

Yes, increasing production is one way to satisfy growing global demand. Another way is to stop wasting so much food. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of the food that is produced in the world is never eaten. It is wasted all along the food chain. In developing countries, more food is lost in the production and post-harvest process. In developed countries like ours, more food is wasted closer to the consumer.

How much food prepared at home is eventually thrown out? How many plates of food at the end of dinner ends up in the garbage? I remember when I was a kid my sisters and I were proud members of the “clean plate club.” My grandfather would remind us – “Don’t waste anything; the children are starving in China.”

It is also a fact that we waste a lot of fruits and vegetables in the fields. Retail shoppers expect perfect products – all the same size, all the same color, etc. In the field, we know that all the tomatoes and all the apples are not going to be perfect. But if they are not perfect, they may be left in the field.

Here in the U.S., we waste half again as much food as we did back in 1970. Why? Because, food is cheaper today. We have a lot of it.

If food cost a lot more, we wouldn’t waste as much.

If food cost a lot more, we would find a way to grow more.

The market works.

In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.