Leading article: Throw-away morality

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The Independent Online

We know that in our unequal world, economic trends will affect different countries in different ways. Often there is little that can be done to close the gap.

Consider the recent surge in grain prices. In the developed world we have experienced this in the rising cost of bread, milk and meat at the supermarket. It is an inconvenience – for some of us a real struggle – but is not a matter of life and death. Food accounts for just 10 per cent of our expenditure.

But compare this situation with the developing world (places such as Haiti), where food takes up as much as 80 per cent of expenditure. When the average price of staple foods rises by 50 per cent in a year, as it has since last summer, the consequence for the global poor is the threat of starvation.

Ordinary shoppers in Britain are not to blame for the rising price of food across the world. The fact that we are richer and consume more calories than vast swathes of humanity should not be a source of guilt. But in our increasingly connected and exploited world, there does exist a moral responsibility on all of us to consume resources responsibly and sustainably. And that includes food.

Higher levels of consumption are one thing; waste is quite another. The latest figures revealing that Britons discard some £10bn worth of perfectly edible food every year would be an embarrassment at any time. Coming in the midst of global food scarcity, these figures should be a source of a stronger emotion: shame.