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The environmental footprint of global food production


Halpern, BS and Frazier, M and Verstaen, J and Rayner, P-E and Clawson, G and Blanchard, JL and Cottrell, RS and Froehlich, HE and Gephart, JA and Jacobsen, NS and Kuempel, CD and McIntyre, PB and Metian, M and Moran, D and Nash, KL and Tobben, J and Williams, DR, The environmental footprint of global food production, Nature Sustainability, 5, (12) pp. 1027-1039. ISSN 2398-9629 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1038/s41893-022-00965-x


Feeding humanity puts enormous environmental pressure on our planet. These pressures are unequally distributed, yet we have piecemeal knowledge of how they accumulate across marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems. Here we present global geospatial analyses detailing greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater use, habitat disturbance and nutrient pollution generated by 99% of total reported production of aquatic and terrestrial foods in 2017. We further rescale and combine these four pressures to map the estimated cumulative pressure, or ‘footprint’, of food production. On land, we find five countries contribute nearly half of food’s cumulative footprint. Aquatic systems produce only 1.1% of food but 9.9% of the global footprint. Which pressures drive these footprints vary substantially by food and country. Importantly, the cumulative pressure per unit of food production (efficiency) varies spatially for each food type such that rankings of foods by efficiency differ sharply among countries. These disparities provide the foundation for efforts to steer consumption towards lower-impact foods and ultimately the system-wide restructuring essential for sustainably feeding humanity.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:food, environmental footprint, global, aquaculture, fisheries, agriculture
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Ecological applications not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Environmentally sustainable animal production
Objective Field:Environmentally sustainable animal production not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Blanchard, JL (Professor Julia Blanchard)
UTAS Author:Cottrell, RS (Dr Richard Cottrell)
UTAS Author:Nash, KL (Dr Kirsty Nash)
ID Code:155467
Year Published:2022
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2023-02-21
Last Modified:2023-02-27

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