I spent most of the day yesterday with the Civil Society working group of Food Losses and Waste. We left the building at 11pm, carrying behind us the dread of a horrible round of negotiations. We lost a few battles, in favor of wasteful systems.
Food Losses and Waste is one of those topics that sounds pretty: all we have to do is waste less food, right? That was my initial impression before I began engaging with the working group and reading the HLPE report before the conference.
Rather than displacing responsibilities into consumers (from the global north, mind you) and cold value chains and better investment in infrastructure in the global south (in the global south, mind you), we’ve pulled the conversation into what it really should be: a question of systems of production. Guided by very skilled negotiators and extremely passionate and knowledgeable members of civil society, the civil society working group drew red lines on the floor, most of which were garbaged by the usual suspects: the US, Canada, and the Private Sector Mechanism. They wanted no mention of specific measures to address food loss and waste (although they are quite supportive of other, very specific measures like Climate Smart Agriculture), no mention of local government authorities and food policy councils, and a continued use of the word “stakeholder” when describing political actors, which is a word that erases power asymmetries between actors.
With a third of all produced being wasted currently (FAO 2011) and still one in seven million people hungry, food loss and waste is not just a matter of changing consumer behavior.
Tonight, we will have another –hopefully final, as rapporteur Khaled from Egypt asked– round of negotiations, which may well run into the stroke of midnight as we hope to get the key demands of Civil Society representatives into the text.