Global environmental and social spillover effects of EU's food trade

Arunima Malik, Guillaume Lafortune, Salma Dahir, Zachary A. Wendling, Christian Kroll, Sarah Carter, Mengyu Li, Manfred Lenzen

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Non-technical summary Globalisation has narrowed the gap between producers and consumers. Nations are increasingly relying on commodities produced outside of their borders for satisfying their consumption. This is particularly the case for the European Union (EU). This study assesses spillover effects, i.e. impacts taking place outside of the EU borders, resulting from the EU's demand for food products, in terms of environmental and social indicators. Technical summary Human demand for agri-food products contributes to environmental degradation in the form of land-use impacts and emissions into the atmosphere. Development and implementation of suitable policy instruments to mitigate these impacts requires robust and timely statistics at sectoral, regional and global levels. In this study, we aim to assess the environmental and social impacts embodied in European Union's (EU's) demand for agri-food products. To this end, we select a range of indicators: emissions (carbon dioxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide), land use, employment and income. We trace these environmental and social impacts across EU's trading partners to identify specific sectors and regions as hotspots of international spillovers embodied in EU's food supply chains and find that these hotspots are wide-ranging in all continents. EU's food demand is responsible for 5% of the EU's total CO2 consumption-based footprint, 9% of the total NOX footprint, 16% of the total PM footprint, 6% of the total SO2 footprint, 46% of the total land-use footprint, 13% of the total employment footprint and 5% of the total income footprint. Our results serve to inform future reforms in the EU for aligning policies and strategies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement. Social media summary Significant environmental and social spillover effects embodied in the EU's food supply chains.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


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