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Localisation of primary food production in Finland: production potential and environmental impacts of food consumption patterns

Risku-Norja, Helmi; Hietala, Reija; Virtanen, Hanna; Ketomäki, Hanna and Helenius, Juha (2008) Localisation of primary food production in Finland: production potential and environmental impacts of food consumption patterns. Agricultural and Food Science, 17 (2), pp. 127-145.

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The potential for and environmental consequences of localising primary production of food were investigated by considering different food consumption patterns, based on conventional and organic production. Environmental impact was assessed according to agricultural land use and numbers of production animals, both of which depend on food consumption. The results were quantified in terms of nutrient balances, greenhouse gas and acid emissions and the diversity of crop cultivation, which indicate eutrophication of watersheds, climate change and landscape changes, respectively.
The study region was able to satisfy its own needs for all farming and food consumption scenarios. Dietary choice had a marked impact on agricultural land use and on the environmental parameters considered. Organic farming for local food production resulted in higher greenhouse gas emissions. Compared with mixed diets, the vegetarian diet was associated with lower emissions and nutrient surpluses, but also with reduced crop diversity. The arable areas allocated to leys and pastures were also smaller.
The study area represents a predominantly rural region and is a net exporter of agricultural produce. Therefore, only part of the environmental impact of food production results from local needs. Both the differences among the dietary options and the overall environmental benefit of localised primary food production were greatly reduced when considering total agricultural production of the region. Much of the negative impact of agriculture is due to food consumption in the densely populated urban areas, but the consequences are mainly felt in the production areas. The environmental impacts of localisation of primary food production for the rural areas are small and inconsistent. The results indicate the importance of defining ‘local’ on a regional basis and including the urban food sinks in impact assessment.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:food production, food consumption, conventional and organic local production, dietary changes, production potential, environmental impacts
Subjects: Food systems
Research affiliation: Finland > Univ. Helsinki
Finland > Luke Natural Resources Institute
Related Links:http://www.mtt.fi/english
Deposited By: Koistinen, Riitta
ID Code:16629
Deposited On:04 Jan 2010 14:01
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:42
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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