Conference Topic Overview


The Circular Economy to Food Security

29-30 August 2016, Canberra

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Topic Overview

Titled ‘Waste Not Want Not: the Circular Economy to Food Security’ the conference was structured around the field to fork value chain: production, post production procedures, processing, distribution and consumption. We also, distinctively, added presentations on the roles of supermarkets, the private sector and on the management and reuse of waste.

Market in PNG (Photo: ACIAR Crop Protection Program)
Photo: ACIAR Crop Protection Program
Reducing food loss and waste, whether in the farmer’s field, during transport, in the processing plant, or by consumers, is one of the critical paths to improving global food security and increasing agricultural sustainability. This is a central thesis of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2016 Global Report, which argues that measuring food loss and waste (FLW), identifying where in the food system it occurs, and developing effective policies and affordable practices along the value chain are essential steps toward addressing the problem. We agree wholeheartedly so focused our program efforts to this end. As such, the report provides an excellent and timely backdrop to the conference and we were very pleased to have in our program as our opening keynote Dr Karen Brooks, who is at the centre of IFPRI’s work around food loss and waste. We have adopted IFPRI’s expansive definition of the value chain using a new term ‘potential food loss and waste’ to include pre-harvest losses and table waste. The World Resources Institute was also represented in our program and they have recently developed ‘The food loss and waste accounting and reporting standard (FLW)’ to enable companies to measure, monitor and manage food waste, which may be of interest to participants.

From the perspective of sustainability and the environmental systems that support agriculture, reduction in food waste and loss clearly help to reduce the 60-70 per cent additional food production that the FAO estimates we need to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050. Saving on waste translates into less water and fertiliser inputs, reduced energy costs and less pressure on ecosystem services. Thus the environmental dimension of FLW cannot be ignored. In fact, the earth’s natural resources, including an unpolluted atmosphere, soils and water are the common foundation upon which global food security rests and which is threatened by unproductive use: food lost or wasted in one country draws on or pollutes this common base thereby inextricably linking all countries in a shared responsibility or circular economy.

12749814_1694506167474490_1869064349_nTo reduce losses in the food supply chain will require innovation, improved transport infrastructure, improved storage and packaging, all of which will need substantial investment. In terms of the estimated more than 250kg/person/year estimates of waste at the point of consumption in Western countries, these will only be combated by behavioural and potential regulatory changes across societies.

Finally, we recognise that reducing FLW is a complex problem in which knowledge, behaviours and economics are intertwined along the entire chain. Accordingly, we included this year a group of innovative case studies of work that are underway and having real impact in developing countries and in Australia. We asked speakers to consider not only the innovations needed, but if possible, the costs of such interventions and the policy, regulatory and behavioural changes needed to move our food system towards a more sustainable future.

You can download a PDF version of our conference flyer here. For details on the presentations, visit our Program page.