Eco-design of plant varieties for sustainable consumption: problems and perspectives of LCA guided plant breeding

James E. McDevitt, E. Stockdale (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Aspects of Applied Biology 86 contains a number of papers given as oral presentations and posters along with the record of discussions taking place at two workshops: What does 'green' mean? Seeking to understand and meet conflicting aspirations for food held on 14th December 2007 and Measuring 'green' – does Life Cycle Analysis make sense for food? held on 6th February 2008. Production of these proceedings has been supported by Defra. Food quality is a major factor affecting consumers’ food purchasing decisions alongside price and convenience. Freshness, taste and nutritional value are the attributes most often prioritised by consumers. Recent consumer interest in foods produced in more locally or in environmentally friendly ways may result from the higher level of reflection and risk consciousness associated with modern society. Increasing demand for organic food and rejection of genetic modification may also indicate that a significant group of consumers are concerned with environmental impacts. Creating markets for food requires an understanding of how to map and meet consumer expectations. While the consumer and market dimensions of quality are widely recognised, processors and retailers often focus on those aspects of quality that improve efficiency and profitability during processing, transport and retail. Consequently there may be an incomplete match between consumer perceptions of quality and those within the food chain. Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one tool which might be used to measure the environmental impact of a food chain. Given the complexity of modern farming systems and technologies and their potentially diverse environmental impacts, it is important that robust, integrated, holistic and systematic methods are available to support decision making on technology choice and related policies. LCA is a technique for assessing the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, service or process. Critically, LCA can facilitate the assembly and transparent presentation of objectively verifiable information and the participation of key stakeholders in the appraisal process, an important dimension of sustainable development. However, there is a need to robustly examine the assumption inherent in the application of these methodologies in the food chain and to examine whether alternative approaches might give equally valuable information about environmental impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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