In France, for example, there is a particularly high decline in the number of birds. This is due to pollution caused by the use of plant protection products and the intensification of human activities. This is an important issue: according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 35 % of global agricultural production depends on pollination.
It should also be noted that the quality of river water severely degraded by the same chemical pollution from agricultural activities. Finally, it should be remembered that in France, agriculture contributes up to 20 % to greenhouse gas emissions whose accumulation in the atmosphere disrupts the climate.
One of the levers to fight against these degradations is to involve consumers so that they direct their purchases towards more environmentally friendly foods. Recent research - including that of IPBES, which will report its results in March 2018 - is looking at these issues. environmental and nutritional issues of food consumption.
Examples include the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and ECO₂ Initiative that have used scientific work as a basis for proposing possible developments.
The main changes they point to would be a reduction in the proportion of meat and fish in favour of legumes (beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, etc.) and tubers (potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, parsnips, etc.); and a reduction in the proportion of industrially processed foods in favour of an increase in the proportion of fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
In their report, WWF and ECO2 propose not to eat meat or fish 3 days a week. This corresponds to a decrease of 31 % of meat consumption and 40 % of fish consumption.
Why not enjoy unlimited reading of UP'? Subscribe from €1.90 per week.
It is also possible to envisage, for the same budget, a more balanced diet with quality food by favouring certified or labelled products (such as organic or Label Rouge products). Indeed, according to the same report, the reduction in the cost of the food basket obtained thanks to the reduction in the consumption of meat and fish makes it possible to introduce around 50 % of labelled foods.
According to many studies, a reduction in the consumption of beef meat would have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving consumer health in the long term. Eating meat would not be an environmental nonsense, provided it comes from farms that are at least partially raised outdoors; because grasslands allow carbon sequestration in the soil.
A shift towards farming methods with animals in the open air would thus make it possible to preserve these grasslands and thus sequester carbon. Livestock would consume more grass, reducing the amount of agricultural land used for the production of animal feed.
Producing "better" food
D’further research are interested in food improvement. The development of organic food can be seen as a credible way to reduce thepesticide use which degrade the ecological status of surface freshwater and coastal waters, reduce terrestrial biodiversity and cause excess bee mortality.
The development of legumes can also be considered: they are particularly rich in plant proteins, fibres and minerals, and they are also an excellent way of enriching plots by fixing nitrogen in the soil before planting subsequent crops such as wheat or maize. This can allow a savings of 20 % on the nitrogen fertilizers used, contributing to emissions of nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas.
Of course, most of these practices are very technical and difficult to communicate in a simple way to consumers.
How to inform well?
There is currently no obligation to inform consumers about the environmental impact of food products. And the information available often does not allow consumers to take into account the environmental characteristics of products, nor to reward the efforts of producers seeking to develop sustainable practices, especially when these good practices have little or no impact on organoleptic quality - i.e. taste, odour, mouthfeel, etc. - or on the quality of the product. - and nutritional quality of food.
This lack of regulated information leaves room for a proliferation of certifications and labels, claims and mentions more or less related to the environment.
Moreover, consumers are not always aware of some of the consequences of their consumption practices, such as waste, pollution linked to their trips to the supermarket, or the imperfect recycling of packaging.
It would therefore be interesting to move towards synthetic indicators that are simple to interpret, combining colours and letters, such as those indicating the energy consumption of certain household appliances. ("the energy label").
As environmental damage is diverse, complex and not subject to scientific consensus, such an approach, before being validated, would require research on the content, form and impact of such environmental information on eating behaviour.
Beyond information and labels
Faced with these limitations of information strategies, other instruments can be used to complement labels, such as taxation or subsidy mechanisms depending on the type of product (environmentally friendly or not)... even if consumers sometimes accept to pay more to maintain their eating habits.
There are also norms and standards imposing a minimum level of quality and/or safety. For example, maximum levels of pesticide residues in food or water. This could also be the case for an obligation to supplement the feed of dairy cows. by flax seedsThis would reduce methane emissions from cows and increase the omega-3 content of milk.
However, standards have the disadvantage of reducing product diversity, as each producer has an incentive to produce a good that meets just the minimum level of quality. They also restrict competition by excluding from the market firms unable to bear the increase in production costs linked in particular to the use of new production processes.
Until markets and policy regulations put these instruments in place to guide consumers towards environmentally friendly food products, it is up to each individual to consider the impact of their environmental practices.
Stephan MaretteResearch Director at INRA, economist, Agro ParisTech - Université Paris-Saclay and Maimouna YokessaDoctoral student, INRA
(1) « The foods " by Corine Pelluchon - Edition du Seuil, 2015
To go further :
- Book "The Carnivorous Feast" by Catherine Véglio, lemieux éditeur, 2017
Anything to add? Say it as a comment.
Nous avons un message pour vous…
En octobre dernier nous avons pris l’engagement que UP’ Magazine accordera au dérèglement climatique, à l’extinction des espèces sauvages, à la pollution, à la qualité de notre alimentation et à la transition écologique l’attention et l’importance urgentes que ces défis exigent. Cet engagement s’est traduit par le partenariat de UP’ Magazine avec Covering Climate Now, une collaboration mondiale de 250 médias sélectionnés pour renforcer la couverture journalistique des enjeux climatiques.
Nous promettons de vous tenir informés des mesures que nous prenons pour nous responsabiliser à ce moment décisif de notre vie. La désinformation sur le climat étant monnaie courante, et jamais plus dangereuse qu’aujourd’hui, il est essentiel que UP’ Magazine publie des rapports précis et relaye des informations faisant autorité – et nous ne resterons pas silencieux.
Notre indépendance éditoriale signifie que nous sommes libres d’enquêter et de contester l’inaction de ceux qui sont au pouvoir. Nous informerons nos lecteurs des menaces qui pèsent sur l’environnement en nous fondant sur des faits scientifiques et non sur des intérêts commerciaux ou politiques. Et nous avons apporté plusieurs modifications importantes à notre expression éditoriale pour que le langage que nous utilisons reflète fidèlement, mais sans catastrophisme, l’urgence environnementale.
UP’ Magazine estime que les problèmes auxquels nous sommes confrontés dans le cadre de la crise climatique sont systémiques et qu’un changement sociétal fondamental est nécessaire. Nous continuerons à rendre compte des efforts des individus et des communautés du monde entier qui prennent courageusement position pour les générations futures et la préservation de la vie humaine sur terre. Nous voulons que leurs histoires inspirent l’espoir.
Nous espérons que vous envisagerez de nous soutenir aujourd’hui. Nous avons besoin de votre soutien pour continuer à offrir un journalisme de qualité, ouvert et indépendant. Chaque abonnement des lecteurs, quelle que soit sa taille, est précieux. Soutenez UP’ Magazine à partir d’1.90 € par semaine seulement – et cela ne prend qu’une minute. Merci de votre soutien.