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Fact sheet on the life cycle assessment of organic foods

Factsheet Life Cycle Assessment

The fact sheet presents the current concept for life cycle assessments of foods and illustrates the results of comparative studies.

How meaningful are environmental assessments of organic foods based on life cycle assessments? A new fact sheet provides an overview of the current state of knowledge and draws important conclusions.

Life cycle assessments (LCAs) have become a widespread tool for the assessment of ecological sustainability in the farming and food sector. They are also used increasingly to compare agricultural production systems. Contrary to expectations, in product-based comparisons, foods produced in extensive production systems are often shown to have a lower eco-efficiency than foods from more intensive production systems, due to lower yields.

In the new fact sheet by FiBL, the authors state why substantial extensions to the current method are needed at different levels in order to perform substantive environmental assessments of the food production. In the future, the natural local carrying capacities and resource constraints should be considered in the life cycle assessments of agricultural products. This would also allow for the increased use of LCA findings as a spatial planning tool and would help to reconcile agricultural production objectives with societal protection objectives such as biodiversity or the protection of watercourses and groundwater from pollution.

This fact sheet was produced with financial support from the Coop Sustainability Fund in the framework of the project "Improving Life Cycle Assessment methodology to comprehensively model organic farming".

Further information


Matthias Meier