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G8: Britain Announces War On Food Waste

July 7, 2008

A new report says that Britain is set to launch a campaign to battle food waste in order to halt the increase of food prices across the globe.

The Cabinet Office report calls for a reduction in food waste, adding that up to 40 percent of groceries can be lost before they are consumed due to poor processing, storage and transport.

Households in the UK could see an average savings of £420 ($830) per year by not throwing away 4.1 million tons of food that could have been eaten, according to the report.

Supermarkets will be encouraged to stop using “three for two” deals, which allow shoppers to buy more food than they usually need. These deals can lead to many food surpluses being thrown away.

“If we are to get food prices down, we must do more to deal with unnecessary demand, such as by all of us doing more to cut our food waste which is costing the average household in Britain around £8 ($16) per week,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown told reporters on board a plane en route to the G8 summit starting today in Japan.

The government is to launch a major offensive to encourage supermarkets, restaurants, schools and all public sector bodies as well as householders to try to cut down dramatically on the amount of food they throw away.

The report noted that global food prices have risen significantly in recent years due to a combination of poor harvests in some exporting countries; higher costs for energy, fertilizer and transport; the diversion of some commodities to biofuel; and a long-term rise in demand for grain to feed a growing global population.

Also, the average UK household now devotes about 9 percent of its expenditure to food, down from 16 percent in 1984, according to the report.

But the poorest 10 per cent of households in the UK saw 15 percent of their expenditure go on food in 2005-06; the richest 10 percent just 7 percent.

Developing countries have been affected most by the increase in food prices, with food accounting for 50 to 80 percent of household expenditure of the poorest.

The upcoming G8 summit will be Mr. Gordon’s first since taking the position of Prime Minister. He plans to urge the world’s richest nations to halt the decline in funding for agricultural projects in Africa, so the continent can boost farm production by 6 percent a year.

A separate study to be published by the Department for Transport today will show that biofuels have contributed to the rise in food prices because land has been switched from food production to plant-derived alternatives to petrol and diesel.

Mr. Brown hopes to urge G8 leaders to rethink their position on biofuels so that they are used more selectively.

The Cabinet Office study concludes that urgent action is needed on the supply of and demand for food. “The solution lies in raising the potential of food production in the developing world,” it says. “If yields in Africa and elsewhere reached their potential, global food output would be much higher, far fewer people would go hungry and social instability around the world would decrease.”

Oxfam accused G8 leaders of an “inadequate and hypocritical” response to the food crisis. Phil Bloomer, its spokesman, said: “World leaders … must reiterate their promises to increase aid … and make the necessary reforms including increasing investment in agriculture in poor countries.”

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