Professor Chris Elliott has called for a new labelling system to show consumers the environmental damage, or indeed benefit, of the food and drink they are buying.
Writing for The Grocer, the director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University, Belfast, said there is “huge economic benefit” in a “simple-to-follow and trustworthy front-of-pack traffic light system that scores carbon dioxide emissions, water usage, impact on soil health and biodiversity”.
The impact of food production and consumption in relation to climate change and biodiversity has been brought into sharp focus in recent months. “As we all become more and more aware of our societal responsibilities in terms of having a sustainable food system, I believe many citizens would not only buy into this concept, but would buy the products with the greatest number of green credentials,” he explained.
Such a public-facing auditing system would also drive changes in farming practice and increase demand for “planet-friendly food”, he wrote. “Could such a system do what Uber did to booking a taxi – namely disrupt and transform? Our food system needs disruption and the world’s clock is ticking fast.”
A recent survey suggested that carbon labels on food could make a comeback. Denmark has already announced plans for a climate mark for food.
Professor Elliott also hit out at companies who have committed to remove palm oil from their products. He highlighted that “many millions of families in the developing world have been taken out of abject poverty by farming this commodity” and wondered “what the environmental footprint of the replacements for palm oil [will] be?” He added: “To me, the companies shouting out loudest about going palm oil-free either don’t know the importance of these points or simply don’t really care as long as they sell more.”