ArticlePDF Available

Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The global impacts of food production Food is produced and processed by millions of farmers and intermediaries globally, with substantial associated environmental costs. Given the heterogeneity of producers, what is the best way to reduce food's environmental impacts? Poore and Nemecek consolidated data on the multiple environmental impacts of ∼38,000 farms producing 40 different agricultural goods around the world in a meta-analysis comparing various types of food production systems. The environmental cost of producing the same goods can be highly variable. However, this heterogeneity creates opportunities to target the small numbers of producers that have the most impact. Science , this issue p. 987
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... During ethnographic work undertaken in peri-urban areas within a 25 km radius of Bengaluru, Karnataka in southern India during 2018-19 (Cole and Desphande, 2019;Greru et al., 2022;Eltholth et al., 2022;Cole et al., 2023) farmers consistently spoke of challenges to their livelihoods from climate change, while veterinarians discussed how symptoms assumed by farmers to be infections were, the veterinarians suspected, instead caused or exacerbated by heat stress. This suggested a direct relationship between climate stress and animal ill-health which required further examination, especially as climate stress is increasingly pushing farmers from crop raising to less waterintensive poultry/livestock production (Poore and Nemecek, 2018;Heinke et al., 2020), which could also exacerbate climate change issues in the long term due to land use changes and increased energy requirements (McMichael et al., 2007). As the Global North attempts to shift to a more plant-based diet to combat carbon emissions and environment damage caused by livestock farming (Willett et al., 2019), combined with an increasingly vegan population (Wright, 2021), the Indian farming sector could find itself left behind if the impact of climate change on its practices is not fully understood and planned for. ...
Full-text available
Article
Understanding the impact of climate change on livestock health is critical to safeguarding global food supplies, economies, and farming livelihoods. We evidence, through exploration of secondary data informed by a rapid ethnographic assessment of farming livelihoods in Karnataka, India, that both precipitation and vapour pressure are key climate variables relating to outbreaks of haemorrhagic septicaemia (HS), anthrax (AX), and black quarter (BQ) across the Indian state of Karnataka. We then developed a risk classification tool that assesses how disease risk varies in Karnataka at present and in possible future scenarios. Temperature and maximum temperature are negatively correlated with HS, AX, and BQ, indicating that regions experiencing a cool (but still hot) climate with increasingly wetter, more humid conditions are at high risk of future outbreaks. Principal component analyses revealed the southwest India monsoon and winter periods to be the most strongly correlated with HS, AX, and BQ outbreaks. Vapour pressure, a proxy for humidity, has a positive relationship with these specific livestock diseases. Certain environmental conditions increase the incidence of some bacterial diseases and conditions that mimic their symptoms, and thus also risk driving up the use of antibiotics and the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in regions under stress. This methodology can be replicated to investigate other diseases and regions, as long as the climate and epidemiological data cover similar time periods. This evidence highlights the need for greater synergies between climate change and One Health research and policy. One Health Impact Statement We have taken a transdisciplinary approach, which expands out of One Health to include climate science and participatory research with farmers and livestock industry consultants, to investigate the relationship between factors related to climate (surface temperatures, rainfall, humidity) and outbreaks of livestock-related bacterial diseases. This is especially relevant to the One Health approach as it attempts to integrate findings between not only the science of disease but also the science of climate change as a driver of disease, and address problems that could arise within the public and private sectors (local farming, livestock health, government policy etc.). Providing spatial context to climate-associated disease risk across the Indian state of Karnataka will benefit: local farmers who may already be practising, or are transitioning to, more intensive livestock farming; policymakers; and private sector companies who are planning for future investments. Such expansion needs to be undertaken with full awareness of potentially heightened disease risk. Our transdisciplinary approach is borne from the observations of famers’ lived experiences of challenges to their livelihoods and facilitates the use of climate datasets that may not have been primarily collected for, or used by, disease-related studies to map long-term epidemiological risk. This demonstrates the pragmatic impact that such transdisciplinary projects can have, by providing interpretations of observed risks to animal health (highlighted by social scientists during engagement with practitioner communities) that Earth Scientists were then able to quantify, proving links that would otherwise not have been evidenced. The use of disease data sourced from local institutions, including the Government of India and research laboratories, can inform plans for the application of pragmatic solutions to local challenges by local farmers who are primarily impacted by the challenges highlighted in the research.
... To reach global emissions targets and mitigate the consequences of climate change 5 , structural measures must be accompanied by behavioural change on the consumer level 6-9 . Reducing meat consumption is considered crucial, as the current food supply chain contributes more than one quarter of global emissions 10 . Food-related emissions could be reduced by up to 70% by adopting more plant-based diets 11,12 . ...
Full-text available
Preprint
To reach necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets, behavioural change is necessary at the consumer level. Nevertheless, behavioural interventions have only a limited impact on habitual behaviours such as beef consumption, which significantly contributes to the GHGs released. Immersive virtual reality (VR) in the metaverse can transform the current information-based environmental communication into more experience-based communication. To study how such a shift might change its effectiveness, we randomly assigned participants to a VR experience (experiencing and influencing future climate change scenarios based on food choices) or a VR information condition (receiving the same information from a virtual human). The VR experience led to higher intentions to reduce meat consumption and more pro-environmental behaviour in VR and real life as compared to the information condition. Mediation analyses confirm that experiential VR environmental communication can increase people’s efficacy beliefs, which increase their intentions and, consequently, lead to a reduction in beef consumption.
... Globally, the agricultural sector is responsible highest of water consumption, with freshwater withdrawal averaging 70% of total water withdrawal (FAO 2011a). The use of nutrients, pesticides, and other contaminants makes agriculture the principal cause of water pollution (FAO 2018;Poore and Nemecek 2018). The use of chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) in agriculture is considered a necessary element to increase the amount of production and to meet a demand for food that is growing exponentially along with population growth (OECD-FAO 2021). ...
Full-text available
Article
PurposeThe transition to a circular agri-food sector is a necessary condition for the sustainable development of the current production and consumption model. The complexity of the agri-food chain requires the introduction of a harmonized measurement system so that the circular economy can be applied. This study aims to define a life cycle-based dashboard to systematize and test cross-sectional life cycle-based (LCB) indicators to evaluate their applicability.Methods The study is based on previous research to systematize cross-sectional LCB indicators, for the circular agri-food sector, classified according to the spatial dimensions (macro, meso, micro), areas of sustainability (economic, social, environmental), and scope within which the indicators are applied. The indicators were tested through a multiple compared analysis at the national and regional level, including a company case study (within the same region). Data were collected through two different methodologies based on the spatial dimension analysed. At the macro level, data were collected from databases and reports. At the micro level, a semi-structured interview with the owner of the company was conducted. For the analyses, data from different years were considered to compare results and to outline micro-trends.Result and discussionThe work made it possible to outline two types of results. The first derives from the application of the indicators to the spatial dimensions; the second expresses the potential application of the LCB-dashboard by the cross-sectional LCB indicators. The results of the work highlight the ability of cross-sectional indicators to provide a first comprehensive overview of the circularity of the agri-food sector concerning each level of observation. The study also allowed the applicability of LCB cross-sectional indicators to be tested. This suggests the need to introduce a harmonized detection system, between the national and regional accounting systems, obtaining consistent indicators that facilitate the comparison of results over time.Conclusions The research showed the validity of the use of the cross-sectional LCB indicators, contributing to the discussion on CE indicators in the agri-food sector. The work supports the definition of new cross-sectional indicators and the new data collection model. For companies, the results encourage the development of monitoring models based on the LCB-dashboard. The paper has highlighted the limits and future steps of the measuring indicator system for the circularity of the agri-food sector.
Preprint
To survive and proliferate in diverse environments with varying climate and nutrient availability, plants modulate their metabolism. Achieving a balance between carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) use such that growth and defense mechanisms can be appropriately controlled is critical for plant fitness. The identification of factors that regulate C/N utilization in plants can make a significant contribution to optimization of plant health. Here we show that pyridox(am)ine 5'-phosphate oxidase (PDX3), which regulates vitamin B6 homeostasis, influences C/N balance. The B6 vitamer imbalance resulting from loss of PDX3 leads to over-accumulation of nitrogenous compounds. A combination of increased glutamate dehydrogenase activity, impairment in the photorespiratory cycle and inappropriate use of endogenous ammonium fuel the metabolic imbalance. Growth at elevated CO2 levels further exacerbates the pdx3 phenotypes. Interestingly, serine supplementation rescues growth under high CO2 likely bypassing the phosphorylated pathway of biosynthesis suggesting that this amino acid is an important commodity. We show that PDX3 function appears dispensable upon thermomorphogenesis, a condition that favors C metabolism. Furthermore, while a low ammonium to nitrate ratio likely accounts for overstimulation of salicylic acid (SA) defense responses in pdx3 lines that compromises growth, a basal level of SA protects against loss of PDX3 biochemical function. Overall, the study highlights environmental scenarios where vitamin B6 homeostasis, as managed by the salvage pathway enzyme PDX3, is critical and provides insight into how plants reprogram their metabolism under such conditions.
Article
The current food system is not sustainable. Circular agriculture aims to save the environment and produce food sustainably by closing nutrient cycles, possibly without improving animal welfare. This paper proposes a new conceptual framework, called a circular welfare economy (CWE), to facilitate a transition towards a sustainable agriculture based on integrity. The CWE-framework explains how welfare relates to circular agriculture, how potential conflicts can be solved and what future livestock farming could look like. CWE applies the notion of circularity to welfare defined as the quality of life as perceived by the individual itself. CWE also identifies human integrity, defined as being open and honest, as a sine qua non for sustainability. Animal-welfare problems arise when animals are merely used as a means, e.g., for profits. Instead, profits and circular agriculture are means to the end of welfare. In a CWE, welfare is promoted sustainably, without causing undue need frustration in other individuals. This requires informed moral decision making involving human integrity and closure of welfare-related feedback loops. Conflicts between circular agriculture and animal welfare are solved by weighing all welfare needs impartially. Three future scenarios are presented: Animal-welfare-exclusive circular agriculture, which resembles modern intensive livestock farming, animal-rights agriculture without livestock farming, and a CWE-based agriculture which integrates circular agriculture and animal welfare. In the latter case we will not use animals merely as a means to close nutrient cycles, but take every effort, openly and honestly, to understand and benefit their points of view as we do our own.
Full-text available
Conference Paper
The perception of climate change (i), observations on climate change (ii) and climate change adaptation strategies (iii) of 37 transhumance farmers were questioned. The study was carried out in Silifke, Aydıncık, Erdemli district of Mersin province in the Mediterranean Region, Turkey. The data analysis was done both using qualitative and quantitative methods. Likerttype scale was used to measure perception on climate changes and adaptation strategies. Majority of farmers have heard of climate change (71%). Almost all farmers observed both the frequency and severity of extreme climatic events such as drought (58%), heat and unreliable rainfall (86%), reflecting actual trends in rainfall and temperature in the study area and farmers focused mainly on selling livestock (100%) (mostly to cope with degraded natural grassland/feed deficiency) as an adaptive strategy. There is a massive gap on the adaptative strategies action plan in the regional administration. In light of the aforementioned findings and shortfalls, it is suggested that early warning policy systems be developed with the goal of making transhumance farmers aware of future climate variability and potential shocks so that they can take proactive steps to employ various approaches that best suit different agro-climatic conditions.
Article
Plant‐based proteins are gaining a lot of attention for their health benefits and are considered as an alternative to animal proteins for developing sustainable food systems. Against the backdrop, ensuring a healthy diet supplemented with good quality protein will be a massive responsibility of governments across the globe. Increasing the yield of food crops has its limitations, including low acceptance of genetically modified crops, land availability for cultivation, and the need for large quantities of agrochemicals. It necessitates the sensible use of existing resources and farm output to derive the proteins. On average, the protein content of plant leaves is similar to that of milk, which can be efficiently tapped for food applications across the globe. There has been limited research on utilizing plant leaf proteins for food product development over the years, which has not been fruitful. However, the current global food production scenario has pushed some leading economies to reconsider the scope of plant leaf proteins with dedicated efforts. It is evident from installing pilot‐scale demonstration plants for protein extraction from agro‐food residues to cater to the protein demand with product formulation. The present study thoroughly reviews the opportunities and challenges linked to the production of plant leaf proteins, including its nutritional aspects, extraction and purification strategies, anti‐nutritional factors, functional and sensory properties in food product development, and finally, its impact on the environment. Practical Application: Plant leaf proteins are one of the sustainable and alternative source of proteins. It can be produced in most of the agroclimatic conditions without requiring much agricultural inputs. It's functional properties are unique and finds application in novel food product formulations.
Article
Anthropogenic environmental change negatively effects human health and is increasing health-care system demand. Paradoxically, the provision of health care, which itself is a substantial contributor to environmental degradation, is compounding this problem. There is increasing willingness to transition towards sustainable health-care systems globally and ensuring that strategy and action are informed by best available evidence is imperative. In this Personal View, we present an interactive, open-access database designed to support this effort. Functioning as a living repository of environmental impact assessments within health care, the HealthcareLCA database collates 152 studies, predominantly peer-reviewed journal articles, into one centralised and publicly accessible location, providing impact estimates (currently totalling 3671 numerical values) across 1288 health-care products and processes. The database brings together research generated over the past two decades and indicates exponential field growth.
Full-text available
Article
Recent work suggests that most individuals support policies targeting the immediate economic and physical food environment to change behavior (Gold, Lin, Ashcroft, & Osman, 2020; Schroeder, Waytz, & Epley, 2017). The present set of studies builds upon this preliminary evidence by testing the idea that people who are dissatisfied with their self-regulation success in implementing a low-meat diet are more supportive of policy interventions aiming to reduce meat consumption. Multiple regression models from exploratory Study 1 (N = 220) and pre-registered Study 2 (N = 180) provide evidence that those reporting more dissatisfaction with their success in reducing meat consumption were more supportive of both government (Study 1) and institutional policy (Study 2) increasing meat prices to reduce its consumption. Exploratory analyses also revealed an interaction with meat intake, such that individuals who regularly eat meat indicated greater policy support if they were also more dissatisfied with their meat reduction success. Together, our results suggest that individuals may indeed outsource self-control to institutional or governmental regulators when they are dissatisfied with their own self-regulatory success. Follow-up work should establish the boundary conditions of these findings across behavioral domains and probe their robustness using longitudinal data.
Full-text available
Article
The study of the environmental impact of agricultural products has significantly grown in recent years, as consumers now demand more information about the product’s footprint in the environment. The aim of this study is to assess the environmental impact of the life cycle phases of tsipouro production, which is one of the traditional products of Greece produced mainly from viticulture. The environmental analysis was performed through the study of eutrophication, global warming, photochemical oxidation and acidification, using the life cycle assessment methodology. The system was studied through fifteen subsystems and a 250 ml bottle of tsipouro, which was the basis of the calculations, was defined as a functional unit. From the results it appears that the process of tsipouro production is the subsystem with the highest energy consumption and the grape cultivation the one with the highest water consumption. In environmental impact the subsystem with the highest contribution is the cultivation of grapes. Also the subsystems production/transportation and use of fertilizers, bottle production/transportation and the process of tsipouro production have a significant contribution. In addition, some literature-based solutions are suggested. Some of the solutions are the use of clearer energy sources, the use of biodiesel and alternative cultivation methods without synthetic fertilizers. The results of this research can be used by tsipouro or similar industries to minimize the environmental impact and focus on the phases that are most involved in it.
Full-text available
Article
Pasture systems for grass-fed beef production in the Gulf Coast region were evaluated for profitability and sustainability over the period 2009/2010 to 2011/2012. May-weaned steers were divided into groups and randomly placed into different pasture systems. Data on input usage, output quantities, and carbon emissions were recorded and analyzed. The least complex grazing system yielded higher profit than the most complex, but the most complex produced the lowest greenhouse gas impact. A trade-off was found between profitability and greenhouse gas impact among the systems.
Book
Feeding late maturing young bulls on high concentrate diets needs adjustment of both animal feeding behaviour and rumen adaptation which can be done by feeding maize silage according to researchers at the National Institute of Agronomic Research, Saint-Genès Champanelle, France who state good economic results are achievable alongside animal welfare.
Book
This study aims to produce multicriteria environmental figures (using Life Cycle Assessment, LCA) associated with socioeconomicindicators for different types of pig units representative of the main French production standards. Eight systems are assessed,defined by their size, the degree of specialization and the location of the pig unit, the slurry management and the pig feedingstrategy. The results are expressed per kilogram live pig produced at the farm level, and the field for Life Cycle Analysis includesproduction and supply of inputs, construction of buildings, pig breeding and management of slurry. These reference standardsprovide a picture of the socioeconomic and environmental performance of French pig production systems and of their variabilitybetween and within systems. The environmental results make it possible to identify the most strategic and easily attainableoptions of improvement. The efficiency of different strategies is evaluated in connection with feed formulation, improvement ofanimal performance, and the implementation of recommended good environmental practices. The socioeconomic indicators showthe various levels of access to the action levers.
Article
In a world with an increasing urban population, analyzing the construction impacts of sanitation infrastructures through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is necessary for defining the best environmental management strategies. The purpose of this research is studying application of the life cycle assessment methodology to Hazelnut production under rain fed farming systems in forest north of Iran. Data were collected from 36 farms by used a face to face questionnaire method during 2013 year in Guilan province. In rain fed farming system, total green house gases emissions for hazelnut production were showed table 2 (66.955 kgCO2eqha-1).
Article
Recent olive cultivation in Mediterranean Countries is characterised by the strong diffusion of high-density cropping systems and by the most environmentally conscious management regarding all the agronomic practices and the waste disposal as well. This research has investigated the possibility of the use of De-Oiled Pomace (DOP) as an eco-friendly tool for weed control in a high-density olive orchard providing an environmental comparison with other soil management techniques. Five methods of weed control have been compared in a two-year experimental orchard at the Bari University (Southern Italy): mulching with de-oiled olive pomace (DOP), nonwoven tissue (TNT) and polyethylene film (PEN), chemical (CHI) and mechanical (MEC) weeding, on the three most adapted to high-density orchards olive cultivars (Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki). The data collected during the experimental test are submitted to an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) analysis and five scenarios have been drafted based on DOP use and destinations. The results showed that the chemical wedding produced the greatest environmental burdens, and the higher environmental performances of DOP mulching scenarios for all environmental indexes, with burdens reductions and/or environmental credits. The presence in the following years of some biomarkers sensitive to macro and micro pollutants and heavy metals, in experimental plots mulched with DOP, confirmed the high environmental sustainability of this technique, excluding any kind of soil pollution in the medium-term period in the high-density olive orchard.