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The Baltic environment, food and health: from habits to awareness : Central Baltic INTERREG IV A Programme 2007-2013

Vorne, Virpi and Patrikainen, Lila (Eds.) (2011) The Baltic environment, food and health: from habits to awareness : Central Baltic INTERREG IV A Programme 2007-2013. MTT Report, no. 34. MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Jokioinen, Finland.

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Background of the programme and Foodweb-project
"The Baltic environment, food and health: from habits to awareness - FOODWEB" is a part of the Central Baltic IVA Programme 2007- 2013, which funds cross-border cooperation projects with a total of 96 million Euros from the European Regional Development Fund. The Programme includes three components relating to the origin of partners: Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden. These Programme components are the Central Baltic Programme, the Southern Finland-Estonia Sub-programme and the Archipelago Islands Sub-programme. The Foodweb-project is a part of the Central Baltic Programme and its budget is about 1.5 million Euros. The project focuses on creating attractive and dynamic societies and on improving living conditions and social inclusion. The partners in the Foodweb-project are MTT Agrifood Research Finland, as the lead partner, the University of Tartu, the science exhibition centre AHHAA, the Finnish Environment Institute and the University of Latvia. The Central Baltic programme extends to over 180 000 square kilometres of the Baltic Sea catchment area, which is home to over 9.9 million people. This covers approximately 11.7 % of the population of the Baltic Sea drainage basin. 50.6 % of the population of Finland and 85 % of the total population of Latvia live in the central Baltic IV A project area. The project area includes all the inhabitants of Estonia and 42 % of the population of Sweden. Finland, Estonia and Latvia take part in the Foodweb-project in order to collect up-to-date information for a common database that will encourage sharing of information about food consumption and food related risks, as well as centralising information about the environmental effects of food production on these areas. The information about the food situation in Sweden is also collected and results of hazardous compound analysis and information about the characteristics of these compounds collected in Sweden will also be used in this project.
About the Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a small and relatively shallow brackish body of water located in northern Europe. It is the second largest brackish water basin in the world and is also considered to be the most polluted. The catchment area of the Sea is large, over 1 600 000 km2, and because the volume of water is small (20 000 km3) due to the shallowness (average depth 55 m), the Sea is very sensitive to pollution. The salinity of the water changes at different depths, being greatest in the Danish Straits close to the Atlantic, from where the irregular saltwater pulses enter the Baltic Sea. The salinity decreases farther away from the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, being lowest near the Bothnian Bay. Due to the freshwater runoff near the coast, surface salinity increases towards the bottom and decreases when measured near the coastline. Because of the low salinity, both fresh water and marine species can adapt to life in the Baltic Sea. Low salinity also makes the Baltic?s unique ecosystems sensitive to changes resulting from human activity. One of the biggest problems is accelerating eutrophication caused by nutrient runoff. The Sea is also vulnerable to pollution caused by harmful compounds resulting from human activity. Eutrophication also increases hypoxia, oxygen depletion, which already occurs on a regular basis in the Baltic Sea bottom waters. The food production chain is one the most resource demanding and polluting sectors, and a large user of energy that causes not only eutrophication, but also global warming and marine pollution. The whole food production chain from agriculture to preservation, distribution, preparation and waste management consumes a considerable amount of not only energy, which contributes to total CO2 emissions, but also nutrients and chemicals harmful to the marine environment and its associated species. Such compounds accumulate in the food chain and in particular species. For example, the Baltic Sea herring and large predatory fish species in the freshwaters exceed the safety limits for harmful chemicals and should not be consumed more often than few times a month. In order to improve the state of the Baltic Sea and maintain the food originating from the Sea as pure as possible, various actions need to be taken.
Project objectives
The main objective of the Foodweb-project is to raise public awareness about the links between food quality and food origin, focusing on the Baltic Sea and its surroundings. Emphasis is placed on the life cycle of food and the biological cycles: the food web and related biogeochemical pathways. The relationship of people, food and environment will be made obvious and interpreted in terms of the impact of the state of the environment on our food and safety and, vice versa, human impact on the environment related to production of food and in treating residues from the food chain. The final aim is mutual understanding and self-efficacy in risk management. The relationships between extensive industrial land use, decreasing potential of ecosystem services in the project area, growing pressure for safer food production areas, food safety in terms of pollutants and related risks, and the challenges of responsibility in risk management set by the public for the food chain, will be the driving forces communicated via various target groups. Consumers can influence the quality of the Baltic watershed through changes in land use and environmental deposition, and they can have an impact on the environmental status of the Sea. Consumers need to be aware of the risks associated with food choices and learn how to minimise them. In addition to the substantive objectives, the methodical objectives are a) close R&D collaboration throughout the region and regional food supply-demand chains, b) opening of sources of data for the whole food chain partnership and regionally for extensive public use, c) building new tools to combine and interpret environmental impacts and environment-based risks for food consumers, d) making a joint effort to build up food choice models for mutual use and e) identifying a mutual focus on knowledge based facilitation for an exhibition centre. The final methodological aim is a renewed cross-border culture for an environmentally-aware and risk-alert food strategy for the Baltic Sea food shed. The long-lasting impact strived for will be realised by focusing the informational efforts on young families and schools. The project will be strengthened by building partnerships among food chain stakeholders and mutual cooperation throughout the region with help of NGOs. This is a conceptualisation study for answering the questions 1) What are the volumes of food produced and consumed in the area? 2) Which food material flows are important for food system sustainability and environment-based risks? 3) Which key groups of consumers are at risk? The surveys will be performed through collaborative networks and analysed by MTT, SYKE and the Universities of Tartu and Latvia. For hazardous compounds, the baseline for exposure and pathways will be studied by SYKE based on existing reviews and monitoring data (e.g. HELCOM 2010). The baseline will include total exposure to humans from dietary and non-dietary sources. The possibility to use existing methods for combining risks from contaminants in the decision context will be reviewed. Working hypotheses for databases will be formulated on the basis of the previous feasibility study and a pre-study will be initiated on a) current state recommendations for food, b) key contaminants and their health.
Population structure in the area
The project area covers the southern parts of Finland, the whole of Estonia and in Latvia the capital Riga, as well as Pieriga and Kurzeme regions located on the western coast of the country. The distribution of population in all three countries is concentrated in the main towns, and in Finland and Latvia also along the coastal areas for cultural and agricultural reasons. The total population of Finland is 5.4 million people and of Latvia 2.2 million. The population of Estonia is the lowest of the partner countries, at approximately 1.3 million people. In Finland and Estonia women represent slightly more than half of the population, but in Latvia women outnumber men by almost 8 %. There is also some variation in household sizes among the countries, ranging between 2.48 and 2.08 people and being smallest in Finland and largest in Latvia. The number of single households exceeds the average account for Europe only in Finland and Estonia, but in Latvia more than 18 % of households are of single women. The average life expectancy among all European Union countries is 82.4 years for women and 76.4 years for men. There is some variation in life expectancy among project countries, ranging from 83 to 78 years for women and from 68.1 to 76.4 for men. Life expectancy is highest in Finland whereas in Latvia it is one of the lowest in the European Union. The population is expected to become older in the project area. In Finland and in Estonia the number of people over 80 years has been increasing during the last 40 years, and at the end of 2009 there were over 195 000 persons aged 75 in Finland?s project area and almost 105 000 people in Estonia. In the project area of Latvia 7.5 % of the population are over 75. Women represent the clear majority of those over 75 years in all countries. The population of Latvia is decreasing year by year due to emigration and negative natural growth. The number of residents of working age is shrinking, and if this trend continues, in twenty years more than 23 % of the population will be retired. The population of Estonia is also shrinking and the population of Finland increasing. In Finland immigration is a greater cause of population growth than natural increase.
Food production
In Finland the food industry is the fourth largest branch of industry, in Latvia the second largest and in Estonia it accounts for about one fifth of the total production of processing industry. Meat production, as well as milk and dairy production, are the most important branches of industry in all three countries. In Finland the baking and in Estonia the beverage industries account for a large part of production and in Latvia milk production is the largest production sector ranked by value. Finland and Latvia are entirely self-sufficient in milk and milk products, as well as in meat and eggs. In Estonia self-sufficiency in milk is about 161 % and the degree in self-sufficiency in meat around 83 %. The degree of self-sufficiency in grain in all project countries varies from year to year depending on the harvest. Due to the northern location of these countries, most fruits and some vegetables are imported. The main sector of Estonian agriculture is milk production, which is also the most important product from domestic animals in Finland. The selection of dairy products is wide in both countries: the selection varies from non-fat and semi-skimmed products to low-lactose and non-lactose milk products. Some of the products have been differentiated to conform to health trends: in Finland and Estonia customers can choose products that lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol, for example so-termed "heart cheese?. Over 30 % of Finland?s 64 000 farms are situated in the project area, where most of them produce cereals, special crops or milk. In Latvia almost 73 900 farms are situated in the project area, which accounts for 65 % of all farms in the country. The majority of farms in Finland produce cultivated cereals whereas most of the farms in Latvia are engaged in crop cultivation, dairy farming and cattle breeding. Every fifth farm in Finland produces milk. The structure of agriculture has been changing in recent years in the project area. In Finland, Estonia and Latvia the number of farms is decreasing and the size of the farms is increasing, in Estonia and Latvia the total area of agricultural lands have also increased.
Export and import
In 2010 Finland imported over 2 015 000 tonnes and exported almost 623 000 tonnes of agricultural foodstuffs. The main export products were alcoholic beverages, frozen and fresh fish, pork, milk products, eggs, poultry and malts, whereas most imported foodstuffs included alcoholic beverages, coffee, fish conserves, fresh fish, beef and bakery products. The import volume of agricultural products in Estonia is slightly larger than the export value, and it has increased in recent years. In 2010 agricultural and food product exports made up 10 % of the total export volume and 11 % of the total import volume. The principal import partners are Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Sweden, which are also the main export partners, including Russia. The main export production includes milk, fish, meat and beverages. Nowadays more than one third of food consumed in Latvia is imported, mainly from the Netherlands, Denmark and Lithuania. In Latvia the most imported vegetables and fruits are tomatoes, lettuces, pears, and plums. The most imported animal products are milk powder and canned milk, poultry and cheese. At the same time, the most important food export products are of animal origin, such as meat and meat products, and cheese, but also including cereals. In Latvia food production accounts for 26 % of total export value, and the main export countries are USA, Russia and the Netherlands. For Latvia fish is one of the most important food sector export products after cereals and beverages, and it is also an important Finnish export item. The trade among Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Sweden is economically significant. Pork is exported from Finland to Estonia and meat products from Estonia to Finland, whereas beef is traded between Finland and Sweden. Cereal products, milk, dairy products and poultry meat are exported from Estonia to Latvia and Finland, and milk and dairy products to Estonia from Latvia and Finland. Fish products are exported from Finland to Estonia and Sweden.
Organic farming
Organic and natural products are gaining more and more in popularity and the demand for organic food is increasing. The consumption of organic food varies among income and age groups and differs between young families and those households with older people. Currently 5.9 % of farms in Finland are included in the organic farming inspection system, which translates into over 4 000 organic farms. The market share of organic food in Finland is about 1 % of total food sales and one fifth of Finns regularly eat organically produced food. Since 2000, the number of organic farms in Finland has decreased by one fifth. The organic land area in Estonia is about 122 000 ha, which accounts for 13 % of all agricultural land in use and there are over 1 400 organic producers. There are approximately 4 000 organic operators in Latvia, which includes 4 % of all farms in the country. The production of organic meat is very low in Finland, and Finns prefer organic milk, bread and vegetables, especially tomatoes. In Finland dairies received 29.4 million litres of organic milk in 2009, whereas in Estonia only a single milk enterprise produces organic milk. In Estonia the number of organic dairy farmers has decreased during recent years and some of the enterprises have switched over to beef farming. In Finland most of the organic land area produces grass, oats, and green fallow. Also rye, wheat and turnip rape are cultivated organically in Finland. In Estonia almost half of all sheep are organic, as well as 7 % of cattle and 2 % of cows. In Latvia most organic land is devoted to grasslands and pastures, crops and other cultivation.
Fish and fisheries
In the Baltic Sea, fish is caught both from the open sea as from coastal waters. The most significant fish species caught from the open sea are Baltic herring and sprat. In the coastal areas pikeperch, perch and whitefish represent a major part of the total fish catch. The most fished species differ between countries and fishing areas, but sprat and Baltic herring are commonly fished in Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The most caught species in Latvia and Estonia is the European sprat, which represents over half of the total fish catch. The second most fished species is Baltic herring, follow

EPrint Type:Book
Keywords:Baltic Sea, food quality, food origin, population structure, food production, food consumption, organic farming, environmental impacts
Subjects: Food systems > Food security, food quality and human health
Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Finland > Luke Natural Resources Institute
Related Links:http://www.mtt.fi/english
Deposited By: Koistinen, Riitta
ID Code:20352
Deposited On:10 Jan 2012 13:31
Last Modified:10 Jan 2012 13:31
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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