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Why carbon footprinting (and carbon labelling) only tells half the story

By Robert Lillywhite and Rosemary Collier


The UK is a world leader in the use of carbon footprints. The introduction of PAS2050 has legitimised carbon footprinting and manufacturers and retailers have responded by estimating carbon footprints for selected products. In industrial production, where the relationship between inputs and outputs is constant and the process is tightly controlled, carbon footprints tend to be reproducible. However, agricultural production is different, being influenced by biological, geological and climatic variation. Thus, although the use of a single value to represent the carbon burden of a food product is appealing, in practice it can be misleading. This paper discusses the variability associated with carbon footprints of agricultural products and considers the value of carbon labelling. We suggest that carbon footprinting is a useful approach that will assist in the transition to a low carbon society but that current approaches to carbon labelling may not help consumers understand the carbon burden of agricultural products

Topics: S1, HN, GE
Publisher: Association of Applied Biologists
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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