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Sustainability summit tackles food security, waste

Sustainability summit tackles food security, waste

The U.S. wastes 121 billion pounds of food with about two-thirds going to landfill. How can we preempt such sorry losses?

Food security and waste are focal themes of the North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit. With the U.S. experiencing its most extensive and severe drought in over 25 years, the summit discusses the implications to global food supply chains and the role of sustainable agriculture in improving food security.

Taking place in San Francisco on Jan. 22 and 23, 2013, the summit will debate various methods to improve efficiency in food supply chains. With the global population expected to rise to 9 billion in 2050, some argue the answer lies not just in increased food production levels but greater efficiency. According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO UN), about one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In the U.S., wastage accounts for about 121 billion pounds of food with about two-thirds going to landfill. At the same time, 48 million Americans live in households that struggle to feed themselves. Senior executives from FAO UN, Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Whole Foods Market, Unified Grocers and Daabon Organic will discuss food waste reduction schemes, landfill diversion methods and food rescue programs in the tackling food waste session.

The summit comprises four sessions over a two-day program. The opening session (sustainability initiatives) gives an update on major sustainability developments in the food industry. Following an opening keynote on the hidden costs of foods, papers will cover measuring the environmental impacts of food products and the positive role of sustainable agriculture. Michael W. Hewett from Publix Supermarkets will give the retailers’ perspective on sustainability, whilst a leading chocolate firm shares its experiences in setting up a sustainable sourcing program for cocoa. Another paper by Dennis Gillan of NSF International gives details of the CarbonFree Product certification program that enables producers to measure, reduce and offset carbon emissions.

In the marketing best-practices session, an update will be given on the global market for eco-labeled food and beverages. Amarjit Sahota, president of Organic Monitor, will show that although organic remains the dominant eco-label, new labels are emerging that cover specific sustainability areas and product groups. Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade USA will state how their certification schemes add an ethical dimension to food products. The social impact of foods will be covered by Local Harvest, which supports over 4,400 Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects. CSA is gaining popularity as American consumers increasingly seek freshly grown food whilst wanting to support regional communities.

The final summit session assesses the impact of new technologies on the sustainable development of the food industry. The first paper looks at the growing use of mobile devices to meet the informational needs of consumers. Lorene Reed, president of Planet Organic, explores the potential of online retailing. The social media agency Room 214 discusses the implications of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and related media on consumer behaviour towards sustainable foods. Other speakers cover innovations in food & beverage packaging and novel production methods. Kenneth Ross of Global ID discusses the use of forensic science—including analytical techniques like mass spectrometry and fingerprinting—to authenticate food products.

The seventh edition of this international series of summits links food security to wastage to raise awareness of the importance of efficient supply chains. By bringing together key stake-holders and sharing best-practices, the summit aims to strengthen food supply chains whilst tackling environmental and social issues associated with food waste and food insecurity.

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