The food supply chain and its impact on the environment
Surveys have made it clear that environmental impacts are arising across the entire life cycle, including consumer activities and waste disposal. Environmental pressures from the food system can take a range of forms throughout all stages of the supply chain. The actual environmental impact at each of these stages will depend upon a range of factors, such as the inputs and processes used in production, the region of production, seasonal variations and advances in food technology. While a standard method of analysis has not been developed to estimate the environmental impact from the food system, there is growing use of tools such as life cycle assessments (LCAs), as well as some use of input-output analysis. Input-output analysis is a technique originally developed for economic analysis, but that has been applied to environmental analysis since the late 1960s. It can be used to assess environmental indicators such as land disturbance, water and energy use. While the specific environmental impacts are often difficult to measure it is clear that food supply, production and consumption has a direct impact on three environmental indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, water use and biodiversity. The relationship between the food system and these three environmental indicators is still being discussed.