Implications and impacts of aligning regional agriculture with a healthy diet

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Sharp, R., Bellamy, A. S., Clear, A., Finnigan, S. M., Furness, E., Meador, E., Metcalfe, H., Mills, S., Coleman, K., Whitmore, A. P. and Milne, A. E. 2024. Implications and impacts of aligning regional agriculture with a healthy diet. Journal of Cleaner Production. p. 141375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2024.141375

AuthorsSharp, R., Bellamy, A. S., Clear, A., Finnigan, S. M., Furness, E., Meador, E., Metcalfe, H., Mills, S., Coleman, K., Whitmore, A. P. and Milne, A. E.
Abstract

One of the most intractable challenges currently facing agricultural systems is the need to produce sufficient food for all to enjoy a healthy balanced diet while minimising impacts to the environment. Balancing these competing goals is especially intractable because most food systems are not locally bounded. This study aims to investigate the likely impacts on production, profit and the environment that result from aligning food systems to a healthy diet, as defined by EAT-Lancet. For this, we consider two distinct areas of the UK, one in East Anglia and the other in South Wales. These two regions reflect different ecosystems and therefore differing specialisations in UK agriculture. We used the Rothamsted Landscape Model (a detailed agroecosystems process-based model) to predict soil carbon dynamics, nutrient flows and crop production for the dominant crops grown in these regions, and the IPCC inventory models to estimate emissions from six livestock systems. Two scenarios were considered. One in which the study regions had to meet healthy diet requirements independently of each other and another in which they could do so collectively. To map their production to healthy diets, both study areas require increases in the production of plant proteins and reductions in the production of red meat. While changes in production can feed more people a healthy diet compared to the business-as-usual state, the overall calories produced reduces dramatically. Emissions and leaching decrease under the healthy diet scenarios and pesticide impacts remain largely unchanged. We show that local infrastructure and environment have a bearing on how “localised” food systems can be without running into substantial constraints. Whilst isolation of the farming system to a regional level, as explored here, is unlikely to be practical, we nevertheless demonstrate that aligning agricultural production towards healthier diets can generate food systems with many associated benefits in terms of agroecosystems' health and resilience to shocks in the food supply chain.

KeywordsFood production systems; Healthy diets; Sustainability of agriculture; EAT-Lancet; Environmental impact quotient
Year of Publication2024
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Journal citationp. 141375
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2024.141375
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2024.141375
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council
Funder project or codeTransforming Food System Relationships
AgZero+
ASSIST - Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems
Publisher's version
Copyright license
CC BY
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online05 Mar 2024
Publication process dates
Accepted19 Feb 2024
PublisherElsevier Sci Ltd
ISSN0959-6526

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