“In 2014 Iceland held the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers and focused on bioeconomy. Several research projects in the field were launched. The objective of these projects is, among others, to find new ways to improve utilization of our resources and to avoid waste”, says Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture.
The bioeconomy includes all biological resources where raw materials can be found, that is the ocean, pastures, wilderness, human resources, forests and freshwater. Means must be found to utilize these resources better and thereby reducing waste. At the same time, we need to ensure a healthy ecosystem so it can withstand load, such as natural disasters. Sustainable use and development of biological resources can contribute to reducing consequences of natural disasters, if the utilization is organized with that in mind. For example, forests and estuaries decrease flooding and forests bind volcanic ash.
The bioeconomy touches all life on earth. Therefore, the importance of its preservation is beyond dispute. The day of the environment in April was devoted to the title: “Stop wasting food” as one of the prerequisites for protecting the bioeconomy is not to take more than we need. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that annually 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted, which is about a third of the world’s food production. At the same time one of every seven people in the world go hungry to sleep and over 20 thousand children die daily from malnutrition. Food wastage is a moral problem, not least in the western world.
It is important to raise public awareness of the consequences of food waste and find ways to counteract it. This requires a new thinking in all production and we are obliged to use the raw materials as well as possible. It is also important that innovation companies seek ways to fully utilize raw material which until now has been wasted. Food is wasted in all stages of the food chain. It is estimated that in the developing countries the waste takes place mostly during processing while in the western countries the waste happens at consumption stage.
This calls for the application of life cycle thinking in all policy- and decision-making for waste management, at government level as well as in production of goods. For this reason, I proposed a bill in the parliament in November 2013, amending the law on waste management. The proposal calls for the setting of priorities in waste management and a regulation for the management and policies of waste management. The bill firstly deals with measures to prevent waste, followed, in order of priority, by regulations for reuse, recycling, other recovery, such as energy production, and finally disposal.
There are various reasons for food waste, such as overproduction, inadequate storage techniques, unsuitable dosage and lack of consumer awareness, such as when food decays in the fridge. Individuals can contribute to the fight against food waste, for example by better organization of grocery shopping, checking expiry dates and use the leftovers instead of discarding them.
Matís projects relating to the improved utilization of raw materials and processing are important for the community as such projects contribute to a better utilization of resources while minimizing the negative impact on nature. By ending food wasting, individuals and the society as a whole gain substantial financial profit and it is morally and socially proper not to waste food at the same time as a great number of people in the world are starving.
The Nordic countries possess much ingenuity and creative thinking and by cooperating, the countries have demonstrated beyond doubt that they have all the prerequisites to be leaders in many areas. The aim of Iceland’s Presidency Program, and the projects that are undertaken within the framework, is and will be to further strengthen the position of the Nordic countries.
The interview with the Minister is from Matís’ annual report for 2014, which was published January 6th.