Recall These Thoughts

Food waste as a non-issue and industrial food production

However, agreeing on the existence of a problem never automatically led to solutions, which has become painfully evident in this case. Despite the issue’s uncontroversial character and seemingly lack of political sensitiveness, food waste has long been a political non-issue. Everyone seems concerned but no one seems to take any action to deal with the problem.

It turns out that learning about and targeting food waste leads to a deeper understanding of what is really wrong with our food system, an insight which severely weakens assumptions about increased agricultural yields as the solution to future food security challenges. I will come back to this point in a later post about the “Human right to cheap food”.

– Helena Robling at Food Policy for Thought

This is a very interesting insight from Helena Robling at the Food Policy for Thought blog. I think she is definitely correct that, in many respects, waste in the food system is a political non-issue. There are a large number of possible explanations, but one potential factor is that, to an extent it is the very politics of food production (such as subsidies for certain crops) that contribute to wasting (For some more on this precise issue see for example: Gille, Z. 2012. From risk to waste: global food waste regimes. The Sociological Review, 60, 27–46).

In my own research on food recalls, there are also issues of brand reputation and protecting profitability that can sometimes already be marginal under the best of circumstances. Destruction is often the path of least cost and resistance. Moreover, in most cases companies are reluctant to disclose just how much product was recalled and subsequently destroyed.