EU & UN Agriculture Organisation Join Forces to Tackle Food Waste

The EU Commission and Food and the Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations have joined forces to take action on food waste and antimicrobial resistance.

The EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis and the Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) José Graziano da Silva, has agreed to ramp up collaboration with the Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations over waste in supply chains and antimicrobial resistance.

In a letter of intent the FAO and the EU pledge to work closely together to halve per capita food waste by 2030, a goal established under the new Sustainable Development Goals global agenda. It also commits them to intensified cooperation on tackling the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on farms and in food systems.

“Food loss and waste represent an unacceptable, unethical and immoral squandering of scarce resources and increase food insecurity, while AMR marks a grave societal and economic burden,” said Commissioner Andriukaitis during a signing ceremony at FAO's Rome headquarters.

“We are becoming more united, more efficient and more strategic in how we tackle these issues, and as such, this agreement should be celebrated,” he added.

Calling AMR a global threat to humans and animals, Graziano da Silva said: “FAO's vision is that antibiotics and other antimicrobials, should be only used to cure diseases and alleviate unnecessary suffering.”

While in certain circumstances such treatments could be used to prevent an imminent infection, “in no circumstances should they be used for growth promotion,” he said.

"European countries are making great progress in reducing the use of antimicrobials in agriculture. Their experiences can strongly support FAO's work, especially in promoting technical cooperation activities in developing countries," the FAO Director-General added.

Noting that food loss and waste is linked to many aspects of sustainable development, Graziano da Silva cited the importance of strong partnerships like that between the FAO and the EU in addressing the problem.

Shared concerns
Globally, one-third of all food produce for human consumption – 1.3 billion tonnes - is lost or wasted, each year, causing massive financial losses while squandering natural resources. In Europe alone, around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, with associated costs estimated at €143 billion, according to EU estimates.

Meanwhile, the increased use - and abuse - of antimicrobial medicines in both human and animal healthcare has contributed to an increase in the number of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to antimicrobial medicines used to treat them, like antibiotics.

This makes AMR a growing threat that could lead to as many as 10 million deaths a year and over €85 million in losses to the global economy by 2050, according to some studies. And in addition to public health risks, AMR has implications for food safety as walls as the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households across the globe.

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