Assessment of environmental impact of food consumed in Finland
Agriculture accounts for half of eutrophication of waters
The burden placed on the environment by the Finnish food chain has been assessed for the first time in an extensive study by MTT Agrifood Research Finland.
The study indicates that 60 per cent of the environmental impact of food eaten by Finnish consumers focuses on Finland, and that agriculture is the source of most of it.
The remaining 40 per cent of the environmental impact is on countries of origin of imported foods.
The MTT assessment model involves impact on climate, eutrophication of waters, changes in ozone levels of the lower atmosphere, and acidification.
The report is one of the first of its kind in Finland, in which the entire chain has been assessed as a whole, says MTT senior researcher Yrjö Virtanen.
Agriculture accounts for about half of the eutrophication of waterways, as well as for more than half of nitrogen and phosphorous runoff.
Agriculture is the cause of more than 90 per cent of emissions of methane, nitrogen oxides, and ammonia.
The direct impact of the food processing industry on the entire chain of domestic environmental effects is less than five per cent.
Production of food for the use of Finnish households causes about 60 per cent of the environmental impact of the entire production chain.
Production of food for restaurants and similar Finnish services accounts for 12-24 per cent. The remainder of the environmental impact is from export.
Virtanen says that the results of the study show that more needs to be done to reduce emissions and improve water quality. The reduction of climate change primarily requires a reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels.
“Increased imports of raw materials would not be a solution to the reduction of the total impact of the food production chain”, Virtanen points out.
At the Finnish Grocery Trade Association, Managing Director Osmo Laine says that the environmental impact ratio of domestic and foreign foodstuffs, 60/40 per cent, is approximately the same as the market share that domestic and imported food have in Finnish grocery stores.
He does not expect this to change much in the near future.
Laine would like to see a quality system in primary production, with which consumers could trace the origins and production methods of a food item all the way to the original farm.
Finland is almost the only country Europe where this so-called GLOBAL G.A.P. system is not yet in use.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Agriculture is the worst contributor to eutrophication of Finnish waters (11.12.2009)
Finland falling short of EU water improvement goals (31.10.2008)
Baltic Sea panel calls for tighter emission restrictions (19.5.2009)
Government wants to cut agricultural emissions into water (24.11.2006)
MTT Agrifood Research Finland