Of all the food this planet generates each year, up to one-third — an estimated 1.3 billion metric tons — is lost or wasted, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The environmental consequences of throwing away food are big. Food that is produced but not eaten wastes water and adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
One reason producers, stores and even consumers discard food is discoloration. Biotechnology can improve crop traits to inhibit browning or bruising. That single change can make the food system more efficient and sustainable.
Potatoes are one of the world’s most widely eaten vegetables. In the United States alone, some 180 million kilograms of potatoes are thrown away annually, in part because of black spots (bruising).
The J.R. Simplot Company, based in Idaho, wants to change that. Its Innate potatoes use potato genes to “turn off” the chemicals that cause bruising.
Another company did the same thing for apples, which can turn brown and unappetizing — but still edible and tasty — after being sliced. Orchards in Washington and New York have been growing nonbrowning Arctic apples, created by inserting extra copies of genes the apples already possessed.
Biotechnology also can help farmers reduce pesticide use and prevent chemical runoffs into water supplies.
In the United States, crops enhanced by biotechnology undergo rigorous review and testing before being allowed in commerce for human food or animal feed.
Learn more about innovations by U.S. farmers, scientists, businesses and government agencies to reduce waste and improve crops at the upcoming Expo in Milan, a world’s fair that promotes a global dialogue about the future of the food system. The USA Pavilion at the expo, titled “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet,” will showcase the United States as an innovator in the food sector with interactive exhibits that highlight efforts to find ways to feed the world’s growing population.