Hunger levels are rising at a time when efforts to progress the 17 UN Global Goals are going backwards for the first time. The devastating impact of the pandemic, on the Goals and already broken food systems, has made the need for paradigm shifting transformations that can deliver ‘far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’, as the IPCCC called for back in 2019 to prevent climate disaster, absolutely imperative.
Dr Brent Loken, my guest today on Inside Ideas, is the Global Food Lead Scientist for WWF and he cites food waste as a fundamental problem that will need to be addressed, and quickly, if efforts to feed a growing global population have any chance of success.
“One of the key issues moving forward is we need to work out how we are going to feed every person on this planet without expanding agricultural land,” he said. “We have to not only feed 7.7 billion on it but we will have to feed 10 billion people on that by 2050. And that is where food waste comes in because food waste automatically comes back to land and how we use the resource – and you have to use them much more efficiently.”
According to this year’s Food Waste Index Report, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), ‘8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed’. The report also shows that ‘17% of total global food production may be wasted (11% in households, 5% in food service and 2% in retail)’. Leading Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP, to comment that ‘if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions’.
Brent says efficiency must be built into the way land is used, and food is produced, to reverse these trends.
“We need to think about how we actually produce the food,” he added. “Because producing the food a lot more efficiently on land is something we have to do to ensure we are not cutting down more trees, which increases greenhouse gas emissions, increases biodiversity loss.”
I am delighted to welcome Dr Loken on the show to take a deep dive into these critical issues and to explore the impact dietary shifts can have on greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr Brent Loken is the Global Food Lead Scientist for WWF. In his role, he provides thought leadership through forward-looking research, science direction for goal setting, scientific analysis in support of strategy development, and the management of internal and external science talent to support the Global Food Practice team in advancing an ambitious agenda.
Previously, Brent worked for EAT, the science-based global platform for food system transformation, where he was a lead author on the EAT-Lancet report on Food, Planet, Health. His past research includes a variety of publications ranging from subjects on food and health to orangutan terrestriality and tropical forest governance.
His current work includes a report on food consumption patterns in G20 countries and the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a series of papers that develop national level roadmaps on GHG mitigation potential from changes in food and agriculture, and an analysis on how sustainable logging in a tropical forest impacts biodiversity.
Brent also co-founded and helped lead a progressive international school and co-founded a conservation NGO that focused on protecting rainforests and biodiversity by empowering indigenous peoples. Rarely patient, Brent believes to achieve the SDGs and Paris Agreement in the short time that is available it will be because of fast moving and innovative organizations and people that disrupt the status quo and actively show the world a more healthy and sustainable way of living in harmony with nature.