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Organic food provides significant environmental benefits to plant-rich diets


Comments-  This study is an impact study. Meaning it looks at the consequences that certain activity has on the environment.  Sustainability is a word used in this article and this refers to the amount of resources that are required for different activities. 


The conclusion that a plant based diet is more sustainable and has less of an environmental impact on the planet provides a more holistic or global perspective then what is a good diet from an individual perspective.  But there are many studies that indicate that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has significant health benefit. 


As the article suggests the next step is to study the impact of pesticides on the plant. 


Dr. Michael Kane  







The study of more than 34,000 people is the first to investigate the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems

Date:

February 9, 2018

Source:

Frontiers

Summary:

A study of the diets of 34,000 people confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. This is the first-ever study to look at the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems.

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FULL STORY

A major new study confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. Published today in open access journal Frontiers in Nutrition, this is the first study to investigate the environmental impacts of both dietary patterns and farm production systems. It is also the first to investigate the environmental impact of organic food consumption using observed diets rather than models.

Many organizations, including the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, advocate the urgent adoption of more sustainable diets at a global level. Such diets include reduced consumption of animal products, which have a higher environmental impact than plant-based products. This is mainly due to the high energy requirements of livestock farming as well as the very large contribution of livestock to greenhouse gas emissions. Intensive livestock production is also responsible for significant biodiversity loss due to conversion of natural habitats to grass and feed crops.

The method of food production may also influence sustainable diets. Organic agriculture is generally considered more environmentally friendly than other modern production techniques. However, while many studies have investigated environmentally sustainable diets, these have rarely considered both dietary choices and the production method of the foods consumed.

"We wanted to provide a more comprehensive picture of how different diets impact the environment," says Louise Seconda from the French Agence De L'Environnement Et De La Maitrise De L'Energie and the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Unit one of the article's authors. "In particular, it is of considerable interest to consider the impacts of both plant-based foods and organic foods."

To do this, researchers obtained information on food intake and organic food consumption from more than 34,000 French adults. They used what's called a 'provegetarian' score to determine preferences for plant-based or animal-based food products. The researchers also conducted production life cycle environmental impact assessments at the farm level against three environmental indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative energy demand and land occupation.

"Combining consumption and farm production data we found that across the board, diet-related environmental impacts were reduced with a plant-based diet -- particularly greenhouse gas emissions," says Louise Seconda. "The consumption of organic food added even more environmental benefits for a plant-based diet. In contrast, consumption of organic food did not add significant benefits to diets with high contribution from animal products and only moderate contribution from plant products."

However the researchers caution that the environmental effects of production systems are not uniform and can be impacted by climate, soil types and farm management.

"We didn't look at other indicators such as pesticide use, leaching and soil quality which are relevant to the environmental impacts of productions systems," says Louise Seconda. "Therefore future studies could also consider these as well as supply chain and distribution impacts of food production."

The authors also say it will be important to conduct further studies to confirm these results and to expand our understanding of how the entire food production lifecycle impacts sustainability.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Frontiers. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

 

Journal Reference:

1.    Camille Lacour, Louise Seconda, Benjamin All├Ęs, Serge Hercberg, Brigitte Langevin, Philippe Pointereau, Denis Lairon, Julia Baudry, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot. Environmental Impacts of Plant-Based Diets: How Does Organic Food Consumption Contribute to Environmental Sustainability? Frontiers in Nutrition, 2018; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00008