By Umberto Bacchi
ROME, Jan 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - European Union countries were urged on Tuesday to halve food waste by 2030 but lawmakers stopped short of making the target binding - to the disappointment of environmental activists.
The European Parliament's environment committee in Brussels voted in favour of new regulations calling on EU nations to aim to reduce food produced and never eaten to 30 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.
"(The vote) fulfilled a moral obligation," MEP Simona Bonafe, the committee member charged with drafting the text, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.
About one third of all food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted every year, either spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.
Yet almost 800 million people worldwide go to bed hungry every night, according to United Nations figures.
Reducing food waste would also help curb planet-warming gases linked to agriculture, which accounts for about 20 percent of overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Bonafe said that, although some countries, including France and Italy, already have in place measures to fight food waste, there was no common EU norm on the subject to date.
"We have filled the gap," she said.
The 50 percent target was introduced as an amendment to the European Commission's "Circular Economy Package", a new legal framework to foster sustainable growth due to be enforced later this year.
To become law it has to receive the final go-ahead by the EU Parliament in plenary session and European environment ministers.
Environmental activists said the amendment was a step in the right direction but didn't go far enough.
"It is disappointing that MEPs did not back a binding target," said Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
"This means that the target may not be taken seriously by some member states," added Martin Bowman of British campaigning group This is Rubbish.
An estimated 88 million tonnes of food is wasted in EU countries every year, costing about 143 billion euros ($153.61 billion), which activists say could feed the 55 million people living in food poverty in Europe more than nine times over.
($1 = 0.9309 euros) (Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)