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Climate database show food environmental performance

Just focusing on climate when calculating menus for schools and hospitals or recipes for consumers can have a contrary effect on biodiversity and the use of chemical pesticides for example. Now, RISE plans to broaden its climate database to provide a comprehensive description of environmental performance.

The climate database makes it is easy to make climate aware choices. It is based on life-cycle analyses of more than 750 foods where each product has a climate number that shows the climate impact of its production. More than one hundred municipalities and a majority of companies use the climate database to measure and outline strategies for menus for schools and elderly residents, for example.  

Need to broaden

The climate database is drawn up, developed and continuously updated by RISE. There is now a need to broaden the database with figures tracking biodiversity and the use of chemicals, for example.

– How we care for our climate is absolutely crucial to the survival of mankind but only measuring the carbon footprint gives a skewed picture of sustainable consumption. Positive carbon footprint values can entail poorer values for biodiversity and chemical use, for example. They may conflict directly with each other, says Ulf Sonesson programme manager for sustainable systems in the food chain at RISE.

Knowledge is sparse

Knowledge of how chemical pesticides are used in large-scale cultivation and plantation is sparse. Toxic and carcinogenic pesticides are used, for example, to prevent insects from attacking plants but can cause those who work with cultivation to fall ill. In addition, the chemical substances can cause species to die out and this disrupts the ecosystem. An awareness that biodiversity is threatened due to pesticides that cause insect death and that species’ natural habitats disappear due to the destruction of rainforests in favour of livestock, for example, is also lacking. This is because the information is not compiled and available.

– The first wave of climate awareness came about ten years ago. This has given the climate issue a head start against other environmental concerns. Added to which, it is harder to find numbers for the use of pesticides and their impact on biodiversity but there is a lot of research carried out both in Sweden by RISE and globally, says Ulf.

Misguided choices

There is an insight in the industry that the focus on the climate is unilateral and can lead to many people making misguided choices. And there is a great deal of interest shown by industry and large multinationals in an operational indicator showing how our most common foods affect biodiversity and how chemical pesticides are used.

– The demand for a more complete description of environmental performance is substantial and we hope to be able to initiate a research project on broadening the climate database with data on biological diversity and chemical pesticides in 2019, concludes ULF Sonesson.