Assessing potential pesticide-related ecotoxicity impacts of food products across different functional units.
Paper in proceedings, 2016
The study aims to 1) demonstrate and apply a method for assessing the potential freshwater ecotoxicity impacts due to pesticide use in the primary production associated with six food products (chicken fillet, minced pork, minced beef, drinking milk, pea soup and wheat bread), and 2) evaluate how five different functional units (FUs) influence the results. Pesticide emissions were inventoried using an extended, updated and site-specific version of the PestLCI v. 2.0.5 model. In the impact assessment, USEtox v. 2.01 was used. The results show that the choice of FU has little influence on the outcome: four out of five FUs yield the same ranking of the animal-based food products: impact potentials decrease in the order minced pork > chicken fillet > minced beef > milk. The plant-based food products score considerably lower than the animal-based food products, regardless of FU. Notably, impact potentials of beef are lower than of chicken and pork, regardless of FU, contrary to typical carbon footprint and land use results for meat products. We conclude that the choice of FU did not influence the ranking of animal vs. plant-based food products. Also, we conclude that carbon footprints are inadequate proxy indicators of ecotoxicity impacts of food products and that ecotoxicity impacts need to be considered specifically, alongside other important impact categories.