The Future of Food Eco-Labeling: Organic, Carbon Footprint, and Environmental Life-Cycle Analysis
Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 10-44
48 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2010 Last revised: 21 Feb 2011
Date Written: February 16, 2011
Food choices contribute to the climate crisis, cause species loss, impair water and air quality, and accelerate land use degradation. The causes of these environmental costs are many - the livestock industry, diet, agricultural practices like pesticides and fertilization, and large-scale food transportation, processing, packaging and distribution systems. This Article describes the environmental consequences of the modern food system, and discusses existing public and private eco-labeling regimes, including carbon footprint labeling, country of origin labeling, and organic labeling under the U.S. Organic Foods Production Act and within the European Union. It also recognizes ambitious efforts like Sweden’s dietary information program that gives equal weight to climate and health and labeling program that requires food to be both produced organically and using low-emission production to meet certification requirements.
This Article considers the role of food eco-labeling in the United States in creating a sustainable food system. This Article discusses the merits of a creating a national eco-labeling program, replacing current federal organic food legislation; considers to what extent an American state could develop an food eco-labeling program that does not run afoul of existing government regulations about organic labeling; identifies the difficulties in developing an eco-label that considers a wider range of environmental assessment than existing organic and climate labeling programs, focusing in particular on the efforts of the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table; and addresses the challenges to developing an environmental life-cycle eco-label that considers all phases of food production, processing and distribution.
This Article concludes that a state with a strong reputation for environmental awareness should, within the confines of the national organic certification program, develop a new environmental life-cycle eco-label that embodies and conveys to consumers a wider array of environmental information.
Keywords: Food, Food Choices, Land Use Degradation, Eco-Labeling, Modern Food System, Carbon Footprint Labeling, Country of Origin Label, European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table
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