III. Food policies must not be forgotten

We can only be deeply grateful of Medical team’s joint work in our hospitals and places dedicated for the Covid-19 treatment.

Unfortunately, there is a growing evidence that the first visible consequences of the pandemic were part of something bigger…


We can only be deeply grateful of Medical team’s joint work in our hospitals and places dedicated for the Covid-19 treatment.

Unfortunately, there is a growing evidence that the first visible consequences of the pandemic were part of something bigger…


To fight coronavirus dissemination was a first huge task.

We can only welcome strategies that the British government has chosen to set up, in order to fight the economic consequences of the Covid-19 while taking into account environmental commitments. A Green Jobs Challenge fund providing £40m1 for landscapes improving projects such as tree-planting or rivers cleaning; a £50m1 budget for reducing greenhouses gas emissions and improving isolation in social housing seem to be first steps in the right direction.

But such measures should not forget double-edged consequences of our way of life on the Environment. The lockdown has led citizens of this country to question their habits. To see fruits and vegetables coming from halfway the world, when the same borders were closed for travellers and workers, has raised legitimate questions. Questions on the origins of nutrients, culture methods, improvement of the final nutritional value, and how is used in a later stage food remaining in the consumer dishes must be resolved.

In this context, the role of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has never been so obvious. All along the road from the farm to the fork, our Department has a role to play.

One of our Department’s goal is to improve the final quantity of nutrients reaching consumers, and reduce losses throughout the supply chain.

According to the 2011 FAO report ‘Reducing food loss and waste’2, 48% of losses and waste are happening in the production/handling and storage steps. In the same time, 35%2 of these losses are happening in the final step, once consumers have bought products and consume it.

This paper is identifying these losses in the different steps, to try to implement food productivity by using progresses offered by new technologies and methods in the short and medium-term. It imagines which solutions and practices that could be relevant on the long term, taking into account energy and will Youth has shown during the 2019 school strikes.

The objective is to identify measures required for the Department’s 2030 strategy to diminish food waste in the current context in the UK.

  1. Food losses are spread throughout the food path from farm to fork.

A large part of food losses in the Value Chain is due to the first steps ‘production’ and ‘handling-storage’; respectively 24% and 24% in both developing and developed countries2. 35%2 of the losses are due to inefficient use at the final stage, when users are consuming products. This inefficient use is more pronounced in developed countries, with a consumption stage representing 28%2 of the whole path farm to fork losses, when the same losses represent 7%2 only in developing countries.

More precisely, 61% of the nutritional value of food lost and wasted in North America and Oceania are located in the consumption steps2, 46% in Industrialized Area and 52% in Europe.

In the South/Southeast Asian, and Sub-Saharan Africa zones, the food available is mostly wasted during production phase (respectively 32 and 39%2). 

Such food losses represent an important loss for producers as an earning potential wasted, but also represent nutrient losses for consumers. To improve efficiency all along the road farm to fork would represent an important task, our Department has to propose solutions.

These losses, all along the food chain, from producer to consumer, have to be clearly identified for each step of the process.

Then these criteria have to be quantified, in order to be able to select the right measures to be implemented.

Based on these data, measures have to be set up to reduce losses. Computing sciences would be a solution to practice a finer agriculture. To know water and nutrients needs of the plant, would mean more efficient intakes. It would also mean finer methods: intakes farmers will provide their fields with a more precise dosage. Instead of using the same products repartition on a whole field, farmers could directly add quantities needed for the plants defined on a limited area.

Throughout the life of plants, up to harvest, these needs have to be monitored, to be corrected.

For farmers, to have a more efficient inputs management with an optimal quantity of plant protection products and more generally all the inputs through life of the plants would mean a higher economic benefit.

Use of more technical methods through the cycle from farm to plate has already been an important trend in the past years. Such technologies were seen as a way to improve productivity in fields and finally farmers’ incomes.

But the potential offered by new technologies is not yet fully exploited.

Computing technology used is still based on a first-generation technology. 2020 computing now allow finer and more precise data and use.

Instead of using the same nutrients quantity for a whole field, farmers are now allowed to directly furnish a plant with its needs. For a farmer, it would mean more efficient inputs, with a limited chemical products use.  

Finally, such improvements would also mean a restricted quantity of food loss and waste in fields and a final profit involvement for farmers.

Encourage such practices in British farms would mean more dedicated and precise tasks in farms. An important training support has to be given for farmers, to know how to use the complete solutions technologies can provide.

These trainings, that can be on a frequency to be defined, could be a way to promote efficient and reasoned use of nutrients in fields, such as crop rotation in fields. Crop rotation is a technic based on regularly alternating the type of crops grown on a field. In the past decades, the intensive monoculture has led to soil nutrient depletion. The loss of nutrients in the soils lead to a weaker productivity, an increase of losses which can be seen as a food waste, and an increase in the use of nutrients to reach productivity achievable while practicing crop rotation.

Agriculture and food are competitive areas, as technologies are since a few years. To leave the monopole of development in an area to others countries, is not suitable and can be double edged. The issue of technologies for mobile phones, and the Huawei situation would be an example.

Due to the competition between high-tech technology companies and the lack of support in the technologic war, the former first worldwide finish company Nokia has declined, for the benefit of the company Apple. Apple company was benefiting of public investment in favour of education and development. Labour force trained in high schools and universities are then hired by Apple company in its research and development sectors.

Phones and computers are then assembled in a low-cost workforce country, China, in order to maximise benefits. Technology sector is double edged, in the meaning that Chinese workers and researchers have trained and improved their competencies, learning from the Apple technology.

Now, the Chinese Huawei company is challenging Apple economic development. The company is benefiting of a monopoly situation, supported by Chinese government, that see Huawei not just as an economic tool, but also a political one. Huawei is now accused of benefiting its dominant position to impose Chinese agenda and priorities on the rest of the world.

To avoid such a situation in the tech sector for agriculture, our investments will have to ensure that British companies, entrepreneurs are no left behind.

By fostering dedicated study path in schools, in order for young people to be trained to conceive and use these technologies and its potential, we will avoid such a situation5.

  1. Food policies must be a shared strategy

The short-term issues farmers are facing in their lands should not make us forget that the largest quantity of food losses is located in developed countries, at the final stage, due to consumers behaviours. World Resources Institutes estimates in its 2011 Global food losses and food waste, that 28% of the food losses are located at this final step, in developed countries. More specifically, the UK Government Office for Science3 estimates that at least 10 million tons of food every year are wasted in the country. The same study estimates that 6 million tons, with a retail value of £17 billion, could be avoided.

An approach is to influence the consumer behaviour. It requires long-term policies, in order for the citizens to understand environment stakes and consequences. The campaign ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ is an example of such measures. The campaign was launched in 2007 by the Waste & Resources Action Program.

By promoting incentives, it aims to reduce the amount of food wasted in the UK. British consumers can find on the ‘Love food/hate waste’ campaign website advices to adopt in the daily life, recipes…The goal of the campaign is for each consumer to understand that ‘every person has a part to play in reducing food waste and looking after the planet’.

For the campaign, the ‘answer is simple: love food, hate waste’.

 Therefore, the question of the efficiency of campaigns dedicated to consumers will be raised. Consumers will share the goals of the campaigns, if they see positive impacts in their daily life, especially in their checkouts.

To this end, the efficiency of food campaigns has to be established. The Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP) estimated in the Courtauld 2025 Agreement, that £1 spent on influencing consumer behaviour could result in benefits between £5.20 and £6.70, if all the costs along the path farm to fork are taken into account with the steps of manufacturing, retail, hospitality and food services.

Food campaigns will be supported only if citizens as citizen-consumers and as tax payers see the benefits for themselves and the society as a whole.

It requires stakes and consequences to be fully understood by every citizen. The path to become aware of environmental issues and understand environmental stakes, requires citizens to be proactive and to understand impacts of the daily behaviour.

This awareness of human behaviour impacts on its environment start from an early age at school. Tools such as the campaign ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ provide methods and solutions to reach this goal. By reaching young generation, it aims at influencing whole families. This initiative aims to achieve this goal by “connecting children with the value of food and understanding where it comes from and how to use food effectively to save money and the planet”4.

‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ regional antenna provides tools for teachers. Tools are dedicated by class sections, using knowledges available at each age. For example, for secondary pupils (specifically S1-S2), focus on food waste at home. Then, a ‘Home Economic lesson’ gives students keys to understand how it affects budget of the whole family, and which solutions could be useful.

Lessons for each level are then available for teachers. The campaign also offers parents advices, recipes, tools that would allow to achieve the goals, and rely on children to spread at home the message learnt at school.

Influence consumers while making their choices while buying, and at home while cooking is the most efficient way to reduce food waste.

To influence behaviours is a long and difficult task. This path has to start at schools, by teaching pupils which behaviours to adopt, allow them to understand issues of food waste, and challenges young generations will have to face.

We can only welcome energy and will young people have shown during the climate strikes demonstrations in September 2019. Protests have demonstrated a will to be involved for environmental issues. However, such events have to be channelled in order to be seen as a positive will, and accompanied to lead to solutions seen as encouraging changes.

Our will is to foster projects in schools and organizations that are achieving such goals. It can be through courses dedicated on the subject, projects involving students on a specific goal: discovery of landscapes and wildlife near a river close to schools, then explanation of the importance of the protection and the benefits for the society…

Curiosity and commitment can be fostered by having a precise project, such as by imagining solutions to reduce food waste in school cafeterias, being involved in a part of the fruits and vegetables production of the school (with ‘how to manage a vegetable garden’, that can also be a way to understand all the weather part and be a support for cultural sciences courses)..

The goal will be for the children to understand all the steps along the food chain. By promoting local actions near schools, food waste issues will be largely understood and shared.

Then, children will bring back ideas at home, sharing with the rest of the family ideas learnt in schools. In order to be efficient, such a learning in schools has to be seen as game by children, and stay a pleasure.

The goal is then for the citizens not to be simple consumers anymore, but citizen-consumers, who think and reflect in the everyday life.

To find solutions to the question of food waste, requires initiatives to swim against the tide, and the past model for consumption.

The 2019 climate strikes have demonstrated the Youth feels concerned about environment issues.

The main challenge will be to turn it into a positive and productive action. This goal will be reached by focusing education in schools on environmental issues, and the question of food waste.

The ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ campaign would be an example of a tool to prepare and accompany especially the future generation to challenges to come.

School can be a place to learn how is the situation, the reasons why changes and improvements are required on the question of food waste.

Studies will be one of the opportunities for the environment issues to be understood.

It will also be the place where solutions are imagined and created, thanks to knowledges learnt during courses. Solutions to answer issues of food waste, and more generally environment issues have to be a way to practice knowledges learnt during courses.

These measures will have an even more particular meaning in the post-Covid world. Lock-down and quarantine periods has offered time to become aware of realities our way of life has caused, question our way of life and imagine innovative and transgressive solutions.

We have to mark the year 2020 with a white stone. Our citizens are now aware of the challenges our country will have to face in a challenging world.

Brexit can be the opportunity to set up a bold, smart and green stimulus post-Covid package of measures. This package would take into account the question of food waste, and provide innovative and transgressive solutions, based on appropriate solutions. Quarantine and lock-down period has offered time to imagine such solutions.

Our duty is then to turn it into a period of time used to imagine solutions.


  1. Brian Lipinski, C. H. (2013). Reducing Food Loss and Waste, Instalment 2 of ‘Creating a sustainable food future’. World Resources Institute.
  2. Harvey, F. (7 July 2020). Treasury’s ‘green recovery’ not enough, say campagneirs. The       Guardian.
  3. Government Office for Science (2017). Food waste : A response to the policy challenge .
  4. ‘You are a teacher looking for inspiration?’ Love Food Hate Scotland’ Website, visited the 15th July 2020, page dedicated for teachers. www.lovefoodhatewaste.com
  5. Wintour, P. (14 July 2020). The Huawei dispute is only one part of a wider UK-China struggle, The Guardian