enormous study From the products on grocery store shelves I’ve determined that more nutritious foods are better for our planet.
The research looked at more than 57,000 products found in grocery stores in the UK and Ireland, and is the first of its kind to assess the environmental impacts of products with multiple ingredients.
The researchers used ingredient lists and an algorithm to infer the amount of ingredients used in each product. The environmental impact of each product was then determined using key indicators such as land use, water stress, and greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Products were given an environmental impact score out of 100, with higher scores having greater impacts.
“What we’ve done is develop a standardized, robust and transparent method for estimating the environmental impacts of food products you might buy at your local store,” study co-author Dr. Michael Clark told The Weather Network.
“You could say, ‘I’m interested in eating lasagna. “So here’s information on the environmental impacts of lasagna and maybe you can make more sustainable decisions,” added Clark, a researcher at the University of Oxford.
While visiting the grocery store, most people may not realize how much the global food system is affecting the planet – and climate change in particular. But this effect is enormous.
Farmers Market in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. (Eric Ferguson/E+/Getty Images)
On top of the unparalleled demands on global land use and extreme pressures on water resources, the food system is also responsible for more than a third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
The elements of food production together — managing land, raising livestock, energy to process and packaging, and transporting to get produce on grocery store shelves — are a reckoning for some. 17 billion metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions annually.
works on Two tons of carbon dioxide per person per year – although the impact of consumers in the developed world is much greater than that of consumers in the developing world.
“Right now, on a global scale, food systems — that’s what we eat, how it’s produced, everything in between — emit 30 to 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s really a huge contributor to the climate crisis we face,” Clark explained.
“Food and food systems occupy approximately 40 percent of the Earth’s surface, approximately 70 to 90 percent of fresh water is used in agriculture, and food and agriculture are the main cause of biodiversity loss,” he added.
The UK study mirrored the findings of previous research, determining that groceries with the lowest environmental impact were cereals, bread, fresh vegetables and fruits, while those with the greatest impact were beef and lamb followed by other meats and dairy products.
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former studies It showed that animal foodstuffs account for nearly two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions (57 percent), while plant foodstuffs account for less than a third (29 percent).
UK research applied the NutriScore food rating system to the foods analyzed and determined that “nutritious products are often more environmentally sustainable”.
But there were some exceptions.
Some guilty pleasures such as soft drinks were found to have relatively low environmental impacts, while healthy foods in the “dried fruits, nuts, nutrient powders, and seeds” category had effects in line with some dairy products and worse than seafood.
Understanding and managing the environmental impacts of agriculture may be essential to avoid a horrific cycle, as climate change and other forms of degradation threaten food systems around the world.
We have already seen sudden effects, such as a spring heat wave India Resulting in a 70 percent reduction in mango yield or a 10 percent impact on rice production in Pakistan in the midst of the recent floods.
We’ll also see gradual effects, with some analysts predicting, for example, that “rising temperatures will reduce the area suitable for coffee cultivation by as much as 50 percent by 2050.”
The IPCC He determined that millions of people, mostly in the Global South, suffer from “climate-related food insecurity.”
“Climate change is likely to be very disruptive to agriculture,” Sarah Wakefield, a professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Environment, told TWN.
“Agriculture has always been susceptible to being affected by the weather, but as this weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable, the transition from planting to harvesting is becoming more and more difficult,” Wakefield added.
The mission to save the diet from itself has resulted in single-product food science projects, such as the current wave of alternative meats, and in plans that include the entire GM, such as World Resources Reportwhich presents a “menu” of options.
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There have also been recent agricultural innovations such as “Climate Smart Agriculture“to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing yields, through better management. Others have long called for a return to traditional farming methods.
Wakefield explained that “some authors have suggested that changing agricultural practices, for example by increasing the use of trees in mixed production areas, could significantly increase carbon uptake and mitigate climate change.”
“Reducing inputs of chemicals on the farm will also reduce emissions.”
Professor Wakefield added: “There is a much larger question here that needs to be answered as to whether industrial agriculture is inherently unsustainable.” “And if so, how do we need to change our food systems to become sustainable.”
The shift toward this widespread transition was met with resistance across the agricultural sector, from meat and dairy lobbies to local farmers, culminating in protests across Europe, in Germany, Poland and Italy.
The flashpoint was in the Netherlands, where Dutch farmers protested their government’s plan to cut nitrous oxide emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The ultimate goal is to drastically reduce fertilizer use and move to “circular farming”.
In Canada, last year a plan To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizers by 30 percent by 2030, some farmers are concerned that the situation could go the Netherlands’ way.
But the Canadian government is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, not fertilizer use, and is consulting with experts to develop a strategic plan.
With all of this in mind, Clark’s goal of developing a food label system to help consumers choose planet-friendly products seems even more important.
“We have information on the nutrition of the foods we buy at our local store,” Clark said. “We can start thinking about a similar mechanism for putting together information about the ecological footprint of the foods we buy.”
Clark added: “As a consumer, you will be able to make decisions about both the nutrition and the environmental impacts of those foods.”
Thumbnail: A market in the town square of Pollensa, Spain. (José A. Bernat Pacetti/Moment/Getty Images)
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