Cosmetic Fruit and Vegetable Standards

A few years ago I discovered that something like 30-50% of food grown in the west is thrown away, though I can’t remember the exact amount, and it does vary country to country. And, what actually made me very angry, was a good proportion of that food is thrown away for reasons other than it being past its sell by date. Its thrown away largely due to the cosmetic standards that large supermarket chains have imposed on the buying public. So, farmers grow food, but a lot is rejected by supermarkets, and the supermarkets only pay farmers for the percentage that meets the arbitrary, cosmetic standards.

Yes, some of it is thrown away because it’s passed an arbitrary sell by date that doesn’t reflect the food has gone bad, but most is thrown away because a fruit or vegetable doesn’t meet a very specific criteria. For instance, if a carrot is forked, it will be rejected, regardless of how it is still edible. Or, if an apple has a slight blemish, but is still rejected despite it being perfectly fine to eat.

Some supermarkets might suggest that it’s the consumer driving this practice, but I say that’s poppycock. I wouldn’t have a problem with them selling slightly deformed or ugly fruit and vegetables at a lower price than the perfect specimens they want to sell. But, to throw perfectly edible fruit and vegetables because they’re not perfect is just immoral. And, especially because most of the fruit and vegetables sold in supermarkets are grown by conventional means, which means they are grown with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. So, so much of the world’s precious resources are used to grow food that is never eaten by humans, or sometimes is sold for animal feed, but often it’s just left to rot.

This is just not on. Think about it. There is massive over production in the west, because so much of the food we grow is thrown away. Whereas, in poorer areas of the planet, the problem isn’t availability of food, but poverty. So, genetically modified foods aren’t the solution to people not having the money to buy food. More money is, not GMOs. But, I digress.

This practice of growing so much food, then throwing it away, is especially bad because of the environmental impact of all those pesticides, and the other oil based products used in modern commercial agriculture.

As I said before, this practice is immoral. It’s bad enough supermarkets throwing away food which people could eat, but growing so much, and then rejecting a lot of it, means the farmer has spent the money required to grow it, but doesn’t get the return they should if the whole crop was accepted by supermarkets. So, is it any wonder that many farmers are selling up, and giving up farming?

What is the solution? Well, one way is to buy organic, which is my general practice, but not everyone wants to do that. Then, we should follow France, and ban the practice. But, given the power of the supermarkets, and the current political climate in English speaking countries, I don’t imagine that will happen any time soon.

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