A new EU-funded project that aims to contribute towards getting the food and drink sector to engage in more environmentally sustainable production, transformation and distribution of its products has just kicked off. The agri-foodstuffs industry is currently one of the biggest contributors towards rising emissions levels and global warming, and as a whole it uses up about 70% of the world's fresh water.
The main objective is to reduce the environmental impact of food and drink throughout the production chain, starting with production and transformation and going right up to commercial distribution.
With a EUR 2,890,067 boost of funding from the 'Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology' Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), SENSE ('HarmoniSed ENvironmental Sustainability in the European food and drink chain') brings together 23 companies, foodstuff associations and research centres from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The ethos behind SENSE is to bring together these groups of researchers, producers, transformers and distributors to develop a harmonised approach that can be used to evaluate the environmental impact of food products accurately and efficiently.
The SENSE consortium partners will focus on creating a methodology that can be applied to the juice, dairy, meat and aquaculture sectors. This methodology will need to be easy to incorporate into foodstuff companies irrespective of their size, and it must also be capable of helping consumers identify which products are committed to environmental sustainability and which are not. The team will consult consumers throughout the process to find out their views on what form the product identification will take and what information it will give.
The three-year project will set out to evaluate the current systems for analysing environmental impact, and will come up with a new simplified system to evaluate traceable sustainability throughout the production chain. The team aim to draw up a strategy that incorporates the three pillars of sustainability: respect for the environment, economic viability and benefit for society.
Although the new harmonised system developed as part of SENSE focuses on the juice, dairy, meat and aquaculture sectors, the methodology will be easily transferable for use with any food product.
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