World Food – Food Waste/Food Loss Challenge | ISTF 2020

The global food system is characterized by the following most important characteristics:

  • The availability of food and the access to enough and healthy food is not sufficient for hundreds of millions of people.
  • However, global production is currently sufficient. A substantial part of the food produced is not consumed. Food waste and losses are the reason for this.
  • The ecological footprint of the food system is too large. The current resourceuse is not sustainable.
  • Demographic trends up to 2050 and rising prosperity will greatly increase demand, which will further exacerbate today’s problems if no action is taken. Additionally, consumer behaviour change in rising economies, will increase resource scarcity.

While the general challenge for UN  is “Enough food, available and affordable for everyone, in line with population growth, climate change and the need to reduce the ecological footprint”, Challenge 2 will focus on two key failures of the food system: the postharvest losses (Food Losses) and the waste of Food at retail and household level (Food waste); Food losses reduce the available supply, food waste increases demand. Both stress the food system. A reduction in food losses and food waste mitigates future shortages on a global scale and helps to reduce the consumption of natural resources.

The objective of the challenge is to identify adequate behaviour and measures for the Food Losses and Food Waste reduction, as a significant contribution to the sustainability of the future food system. The different situations worldwide must be taken into account.

Food waste: It is about how the required actions can be implemented sustainably. In addition to effective savings, a change in actions means more efforts, such as information procurement, time expenditure, logistics expenditure, comfort losses. The price of food and the availability of attractive digital tools play a decisive role here. It is also important to clarify how the reduction of food waste affects demand and to what extent this improves the availability of food in poorer countries. Since food waste is used in alternative uses, the consequences for these industries will be shown.

Food Losses: It is about how the necessary actions can be implemented sustainably. Reducing food losses requires better storage methods and more efficient processing methods. This requires investments, the financing of which is usually a problem. The professional training of the people concerned also plays a major role. It should be clarified how the reduction of the food loss has an impact on the food system and which measures have to be taken by whom.

Challenger | Prof. Dr. Bernard Lehmann, Member of the Steering Board HLPE of Committee World Food Security FAO

I was born in 1954 in a farmer’s family in Switzerland. Childhood on the farm, with strong involvement in agricultural practices in the 25 first years of my life.

1973-1984: The time at ETH Zurich for studies and PhD brought a deep insight in agricultural economics, quantitative normative and empiric methods.  

1984-1991: Swiss Farmers Union in the period of beginning of the globalization in agricultural markets. Opening markets in the Swiss case – with low international competiveness – is similar to situations in developing countries. The learning process in order to become competitive under local conditions was very hard but rich in new insights about trade, local competiveness and socioeconomic consequences. I was heavily involved in the creation of an explicit disposition for agriculture in the Swiss constitution (art 104). The 8 years at Swiss Farmers Union gave me the opportunity to understand the farmers point of view towards science / knowledge and policy making.

1991-2011: Full Professor in Agricultural Economics, ETH Zurich with Focus on sustainability, international competitiveness, development economics with special orientation on food security. Climate Change mitigation and the adaptation became significant importance in this two decades. Methods used and developed: quantitative methods, normative and empirical supply and demand analysis, market modelling, system dynamics. International research projects, related to food security, with PhD Students in Peru (CIP), Ivory Coast (CSRS), Tanzania (Arusha), Mongolia (Green Gold), Sri Lanka (Peredennia) and broad collaborative networks within Europe (European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, OECD, etc.). Peer Review Evaluations in Germany, France, Austria, as Member of Peer Group and Head of Peer Group. Policy advisor for Federal Offices (Agriculture, Environment, Finance, etc.). Teaching activities in Agricultural Economics, Policy Analysis, Environmental Economics and food security under changing conditions. Science management: Chairman of Research Program “Habitats and Landscapes of the Alps” of the Swiss National Research Foundation with more than 70 PhD theses from 1999-2007. Faculty Head of Agricultural and Food Sciences. Head of Institute of Agricultural Economics

The 20 years as full professor at ETH Zurich were a privilege and challenge. Be chosen among best qualified personalities was a privilege. To create a bridge between own basic research, applied research and highly valuable teaching was a challenge, which opened me fantastic collaborations in interdisciplinary and international research and teaching. The teaching activities included an innovative format: yearly workshops at FAO with a class of 25 master students in the field of food security at global and local level. Research projects with international research centres and universities were a highlight of this part of my professional life.

2011-2019: Director General of the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) offer me a new experience in four domains:

  • Executive level for Policy making on behalf of the government 
  • Head of Board of directors of Swiss Agricultural Research (Agroscope) 
  • Head of the Sector Food and Nutrition of the Federal Office for economic Supply (crisis management) 
  • State secretary for agriculture on behalf of the Swiss government in international agricultural affairs (e.g. FAO, SFS, OECD, UN-SDG, bilateral relations with other ministries)  

The 8 years as Director General of Federal Office for Agriculture and President of Agroscope (national research station in Agricultural, Environmental and Food Sciences) gave me the possibility of intense international collaborations, e.g: 

  • With ministries of agriculture all over the world.  
  • With FAO; Lead and main sponsor of “sustainable Livestock” 
  • Crop Trust “Food for Ever” Initiative 
  • Internationally sounded integration of SDG Agenda 2030 in the agricultural policy development in Switzerland 
  • Co-Lead (with South Africa) of the UN Program “Sustainable Food Systems”. 

Retired from Swiss Government Administration since July 2019. Current professional activities: 

  • Steering Board HLPE of Committee World Food Security FAO 
  • Steering Board of Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FIBL. 
  • Conference activities 
  • Expert in Science-Policy Interface (project-base)