There's a certain school of thought about sustainability that argues that the worst problem in the food system today is waste. The idea is that we expend a tremendous amount of resources -- water, gasoline, fertilizer, pesticides, labor -- growing food that never actually feeds anyone. Food waste advocates also argue that the world's farms already produce enough food to end hunger for good, if only the food that's currently thrown out could make it to the dinner plates of those in need.
The most obvious source of food waste is in the home. Who, after all, hasn't had the experience of buying five or six bags of groceries at the supermarket, only to end up throwing out a good portion when it spoils before you have a chance to eat it?
But a recent investigation by PBS NewsHour and NPR's Allison Aubrey focused on another crucial contributor to the problem of food waste: farms. The results of their investigation are documented in the fascinating video shown here, which you should definitely watch if you care about these issues.
Aubrey visited farms and packing plants in California's Salinas Valley, which produces a majority of the nation's leafy vegetables, to try to figure out how much of the produce that's grown there ends up being wasted. And she develops a compelling thesis that there are literally tons of vegetables -- as much as 30 percent of all the vegetables grown on a given farm -- that are rejected for being "ugly" and dumped in landfills despite being perfectly edible and healthy.
What makes this even more of a tragedy, argues Peter Lehner, executive director of the National Resources Defense Council, is that vegetables release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as they decompose in the landfill.
Luckily, the video also highlights a few of the many smart people who are working hard to come up with solutions to this problem. One of the most compelling is an effort to find and sell "ugly produce" at rates far below market -- an endeavor covered on HuffPost just last month.