Food Systems

Just out! A new FAO publication on life cycle assessment of food items

23/12/2021

FAO has just released a new publication on the 'Integration of environment and nutrition in life cycle assessment of food items: opportunities and challenges', with major contributions from more than 30 researchers around the world. 

Today’s agri-food systems are failing in terms of their contribution the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Increasing rates of hunger and malnutrition, and unaffordability of healthy diets affect millions of people across the world. Providing healthy diets within environmental limits remains a key sustainability issue as agri-food systems are major contribution to climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. To navigate the complexity of these challenges, agri-food system-related policies should focus on their direct and indirect economic, social, environmental, cultural, nutritional, and health impacts. They should pay special attention to the poorest and most vulnerable, to malnutrition and to addressing barriers in accessing food for healthy diets. This requires neutral, balanced and science-based approaches and tools, and robust data to enable sound analysis of interdependencies and trade-offs, to ensure that the desired transformations are happening at the necessary scale and speed.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one such tool used by food systems policymakers to provide a reliable basis for assessing and comparing “sustainability” in different contexts. This is particularly useful when looking at the environmental impact of various food items and their contribution to human health, affordability and accessibility. However, the LCA methodologies do have some limitations and can fail to provide sufficient guidance about environmental and nutrition impacts that users should capture when comparing the overall sustainability and health impacts of different food products.

FAO’s publication on 'Integration of environment and nutrition in life cycle assessment of food items: opportunities and challenges' is a first step in addressing some these limitations. It can support policy makers in using science-based approaches in assessing the impact of decisions and interventions towards delivering broader sustainability outcomes.

The publication is the result of a project involving 30 researchers from 18 countries. The constructive consensus-building process described in this report led to the identification of key issues and recommendations for the environmental and nutritional LCA of food items. The results provide a robust basis for future research to improve nutritional LCA methodology and apply it to identify solutions that minimize the trade-offs between nourishing populations and safeguarding the environment.

                                                                       READ THE PUBLICATION HERE