USDA Busts the Myth That GMOs are “Needed” to Feed the World

Food Supply and Food Wasted

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A new report out of the USDA says that Americans throw away 133 billion pounds of food every year, or 31 percent of the total amount of available food. That’s over 4,200 pounds of food a second.

At the same time, the biotech industry says that we need genetically engineered crops to feed the world.


They must have not seen the most recent report out of the USDA that says that in the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels went uneaten.

That is enough to almost feed the population of Texas.

The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion using retail prices. For the first time, the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) estimated the calories associated with food loss: 141 trillion in 2010, or 1,249 calories per capita per day.

Do we need food, patented by chemical companies to withstand their chemicals, to feed the world?  Or do we need to figure out a smarter distribution model so that less real food goes to waste?

The USDA report can’t come as good news to the chemical companies peddling the PR story that we need GMOs to feed the world. It has been part of their positioning not only to farmers, but also to their shareholders.

Their position to shareholders and the public has been a posturing that without their products, we risk a global food shortage. It’s a smart marketing strategy as it creates demand for the chemical industry’s genetically engineered products, not only the genetically engineered seeds, but also the portfolio of weed killers, insecticides, fertilizers and other chemicals required to grow them.

But with the report out of the USDA, it appears that this PR spin is more likely to be more fear mongering by the chemical industry in an attempt to drive product adoption and increase revenue opportunities in the face of growing consumer rejection of these products.

So what’s really going on?  What does the USDA say?

“The estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States was $161.6 billion in 2010. The top three food groups in terms of share of total value of food loss were meat, poultry, and fish (30 percent, $48 billion); vegetables (19 percent, $30 billion); and dairy products (17 percent, $27 billion).

The total amount of food loss represents 387 billion calories (technically, we mean Calorie or kcal hereafter) of food not available for human consumption per day in 2010, or 1,249 out of 3,796 calories available per American per day.

Recovery costs, food safety considerations, and other factors would reduce the amount of food that could actually be recovered for human consumption.”

Not once does the USDA, which happens to have a patent on genetically engineered food, say that the chemical industry’s GMOs are needed to address the problem.

And if we could actually reduce this staggering quantity of food waste, the price of food worldwide might go down, according to a report from researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service, Jean Buzby, Hodan Wells and Jeffrey Hyman.

Other reports reiterate what the USDA found.

Americans throw away 133 billion pounds of food every year, or 31 percent of the total amount of available food. That’s over 4,200 pounds of food a second.

Yet one of the most compelling promises that the agricultural and biotech industries make to justify the need for their genetically engineered crops, corn and soy that have been hardwired to withstand their chemicals, is that this new technology is needed to feed the world.

With a growing global population, who can argue with that? But can a man (woman or child) live on processed food alone?

According to Business Week, it turns out that “after millennia when the biggest food-related threat to humanity was the risk of having too little, the 21st century is one where the fear is having too much”.

The chemical industry is busy manufacturing demand, using scare tactics, to get us to believe that we need their genetically engineered, chemically dependent products in order to fend off mass starvation.  It is irresponsible given that in all actuality, we have mass produced their corn and soy to such an extent that a global obesity epidemic has resulted and food waste beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

According to Business Week, “the issue isn’t so much that we can’t grow enough. Rather, existing food supplies are so poorly distributed that those hundreds of millions have too little for their own health, while 2 billion-plus have too much.”  On top of that, a third of food is wasted worldwide, spoiled and thrown out before  it even reaches consumers.

We are wasting enough food every day here in America to feed the hungry.  And while much focus has been on the obesity epidemic, it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore the fact that with advertisements and food access available 24/7, we’ve got more food than we know what to do with.

We throw away 40% of our food, enough to feed 25 million people.  The equivalent of the entire population of Texas.  If we held onto that food in dollar terms, total savings could be $2,275 for a family of four.

Our food system is broken.  The distribution model is broken.  And in that, there is an enormous opportunity to create and build a better one.

What if we were to figure out a better business model, designed to deliver the food we need without wasting over a quarter of it?

Wouldn’t that be in the best interest for the health of our families, our farmers, our economy and our country?

Cleaning up the food supply is messy business, but it can also be a lot of fun. If you are interested in learning more about food waste and how to stop it, please watch the film, “Dive“.