The Environmental Footprint of Food


Feeding humanity puts enormous environmental pressure on our planet. Until now, however, there has been no comprehensive examination of the environmental footprint — the locations affected by the various pressures from food production and the severity of that pressure. Dr. Johannes Többen is part of an international research team led by scientists from the University of California Santa Barbara, which has now mapped the cumulative environmental pressures caused by the global production of 99% of all food on land and in the sea for the first time. This study has now been published in Nature and is available here

The results of the analysis show that only five countries (India, China, USA, Brazil and Pakistan) account for almost half of the cumulative footprint of food production on land. Aquatic systems produce only about 1% of food but nearly 10% of the global footprint. Which pressures drive these footprints vary substantially by food and country. The ranking of foods by cumulative pressure per unit of food production therefore differ sharply among countries.

Articles on the study can also be found at MDR Wissen and The Washington Post.

GWS's contribution to this study was financed by funds from the BMBF-funded BEST project.

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