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A review of studies applying environmental impact assessment methods on fruit production systems

Cerutti, Alessandro K., Bruun, Sander, Beccaro, Gabriele L., Bounous, Giancarlo
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.10 pp. 2277-2286
algorithms, case studies, data collection, ecological footprint, emergy, energy balance, environmental assessment, environmental impact, environmental indicators, food production, fruiting, fruits, production technology, system boundary
Although many aspects of environmental accounting methodologies in food production have already been investigated, the application of environmental indicators in the fruit sector is still rare and no consensus can be found on the preferred method. On the contrary, widely diverging approaches have been taken to several aspects of the analyses, such as data collection, handling of scaling issues, and goal and scope definition. This paper reviews studies assessing the sustainability or environmental impacts of fruit production under different conditions and identifies aspects of fruit production that are of environmental importance. Four environmental assessment methods which may be applied to assess fruit production systems are evaluated, namely Life Cycle Assessment, Ecological Footprint Analysis, Emergy Analysis and Energy Balance. In the 22 peer-reviewed journal articles and two conference articles applying one of these methods in the fruit sector that were included in this review, a total of 26 applications of environmental impact assessment methods are described. These applications differ concerning e.g. overall objective, set of environmental issues considered, definition of system boundaries and calculation algorithms. Due to the relatively high variability in study cases and approaches, it was not possible to identify any one method as being better than the others. However, remarks on methodologies and suggestions for standardisation are given and the environmental burdens of fruit systems are highlighted.