A team of researchers has found that the world consumes more food than it needs. Apparently, almost 20 percent of food is either thrown away or is wasted because of over-eating.

In total, the research team estimates that the world eats around 10 percent more food than it actually needs. Nine percent is thrown away or left to spoil, the press release states.

The study was published in the Agricultural Systems journal. Researchers included those from Scotland’s Rural College, University of York, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research.

Decreasing the amount of food lost through these will improve food security in the world, says the team. This would then result to safe and affordable access to nutritious food. Moreover, doing this could also help minimize the damage to the environment.

Reaching the conclusion involved examining ten key stages of the food system, which include consumption, growing, and harvesting of crops. The researchers also took the data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization into account.

The researchers realized that half of the harvested crops, which totals to 2.1 billion tons, are lost through consumer waste, over-eating and even inefficiencies in the food production processes. Overall, the least efficient process is livestock production.

Livestock production accounted for 78 or 840 million tons of losses. The 1.08 billion tons of harvested crops are used to produce 240 million tons of meat, milk, eggs and other edible animal products, all of which account for 40 percent of all losses of harvested crops.

However, if the demand for meat and dairy products will increase, this would also reduce the efficiency of the food system. This would result in problems on how to feed the global population in sustainable manners.

Trying to keep up with the demand would also cause a rise in the greenhouse gas emissions, harming our environment. Water supplies and biodiversity would also be reduced.

“Reducing losses from the global food system would improve food security and help prevent environmental harm. Until now, it was not known how over-eating impacts on the system,” says lead researcher Peter Alexander, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences and Scotland’s Rural College. “Not only is it harmful to health, we found that over-eating is bad for the environment and impairs food security.”

The researchers add that persuading people to consume lesser animal products, decrease waste and not go beyond their nutritional needs could alleviate these problems. The food security must also be considered when designing food systems, adds researcher Dominic Moran, from the University of York.

Read more:

Australia’s Diets Have More Junk Food; Construction Workers Blamed

5-Second Food Rule May be False After All