The debate over accountability and climate impact of food production is now more heated than ever. Although food security, environmental and health impacts, and ethics have been on the surface for a long time, the corona pandemic, and the increased importance of combating climate change in economic decision-making have made accountability an even more important priority.
What makes the debate on accountability in food production challenging is that the production system is very complex, and it concerns virtually all of us – at least as consumers who buy food.
Major global megatrends – such as climate change – are difficult to mirror into our daily lives. Yes, we understand that drought is accelerating wildfires in California, Sweden, and Russia, but it is much more difficult to understand the connection between a baguette purchased in a local shop and global warming.
Is the consumer responsible for the climate impact of food production?
Should I, as a consumer, be aware what raw materials the baguette offered by the local shop at my street corner is made of, and how it is made, and make my purchase decision based on that? On the other hand, my local shop has limited shelf capacity and mainly offers the products most often bought by the consumers and offered by food companies. The consumer can often only have the choice between “take it or leave it”.
Does climate impact responsibility for food production rest on the shoulders of food producers?
Calculating carbon footprints for food products has gained new momentum. It is new because carbon footprints have never been calculated before. The Swedish oat drink manufacturer Oatly has succeeded to draw attention by bringing carbon footprint information into its product marketing. The Finnish company Valio is working together with its primary producers to create a carbon-neutral milk chain and thereby reduce the carbon footprint of every litre of milk produced.
It is the production of raw materials, be it cereals, vegetables, milk or meat, that accounts for the largest share of the carbon footprint of foods. In simple terms, the carbon footprint of a product is the figure obtained by doing an inventory of all climate emissions that arise in the production process and relating those emissions to how much usable product results from the process. Emission sources are pooled, emissions are calculated, and the results are evaluated.
Can we blame the primary producer for the climate impact of food production and the warming of our atmosphere since most of the emissions arise in primary production?
No. No single operator will be able to solve the climate crisis, not even in food production only. Responsibility is shared throughout the food chain. But when no one is responsible for the whole, how do we get all parties involved to take responsibility together?
Work together to reduce emissions
New technologies must be harnessed to guide operations and develop food products in order to organise the digitalised and global food production chain in a way that allows also the future generations to eat responsibly produced quality food.
Effective and efficient cooperation needs services and tools – and they are what Biocode brings to the table
Biocode’s digital tool makes assessing the climate impact of foods as easy as it is currently possible. Environmentally responsible companies can harness their own partners to jointly prepare environmental impact assessments based on real production data with the Biocode Impact cloud service.
Biocode promotes transparency and scientific reliability of environmental impact calculations by working together with relevant researchers. A practical example would be participation in the LCA harmonisation project coordinated by the Natural Resources Center, with the aim to develop compatible life cycle assessment methods. As part of the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry run Grab the Carbon programme, Biocode also has a joint BIOHILA project with the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Häme University of Applied Sciences and Valio to develop applications for biomass and carbon balance assessments. Biocode has also had a close and long cooperation with the experts from VTT.
Responsibility in the food chain means to focus on solutions instead of problems.
If you are a primary producer, a food manufacturer, or an industry expert and you are interested in solving with us the greatest common challenge facing humanity until now, please contact me.
Biocode is a service innovation for food businesses, farmers and consumers to make ecological choices, owned in half by Mtech.