The new research finds that agriculture’s environmental impacts vary depending on location even for producers of the same crops. This creates opportunities for targeted mitigation, making an immense problem more manageable.

Researchers at Oxford University in the UK and Agroscope, a Swiss agricultural research institute, have compiled an extensive database on food production around the world in order to determine the best means of reducing the environmental impacts of what we eat. There are more than 570 million farms producing food in almost all of the climates and soils found on our planet. To pinpoint possible solutions for reducing the impact of food production on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the global climate that would be effective for the large and diverse range of food producers across the globe, the researchers compiled a database covering five different indicators of the environmental impacts (including greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use, eutrophication, and terrestrial acidification) of 38,700 farms and 1,600 processors, packaging types, and retailers. They found that environmental impacts can vary widely—by as much as 50-fold—even among producers of the same food product. These discrepancies in the environmental tolls exacted by the same foods when grown in different geographies and under different production practices present a number of opportunities to mitigate those […]

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