Reducing waste food could be dangerous to birds and other animals
Researchers have called on scientists to examine how food efficiency measures could affect animal populations that rely on food waste and landfills to survive.
The warning comes at a time when developed countries are introducing new measures to reduce food waste. For example, sending expired foods to charities rather than landfills.
The authors of their paper wrote: “Scientists who work on the biology of animals species, especially those involved in conservation research, would do well to test hypotheses and make predictions about the impact of food waste on biodiversity on the planet.”
Iain Gordon is the lead author of the study and a professor of Terrestrial Ecology at James Cook University. He also serves as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Tropical Environments and Societies.
He asked, “What are the implications of removing this waste from the system?” There may be species that experience a decline in population.
Birds that consume grain spilled during harvests at stopovers on their migration routes may go hungry if farmers reduce crop losses by using more efficient machinery.
Seagulls have increased in number in the Northern Hemisphere, mainly because they are often associated with landfills. Seagull numbers are decreasing as landfills receive less food waste and by-catch.
He said that bald eagles in the US are also heavily dependent on food from US landfills. The bald eagles might eat other animals if humans produced less waste.
The authors of the article noted that in Europe, following the outbreak of mad cow, farmers were forced to burn or bury dead animals that would otherwise be left in fields.
Researchers wrote that “this led to a decrease in vulture population to the extent that some species are now on the verge of extinction.”
Consider the consequences
Martine Maron is an Associate Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability at the University of Queensland. She said that the paper raised some interesting questions, but humans need to do more to reduce food waste.
It’s obvious. Reduced food waste means less food to produce, and food production causes a lot more problems for wildlife.
We have to be sure that we don’t cause any unintended effects. “We can find solutions for any species who might suffer from this,” she said.