The Carbon and Land Footprint of Certified Food Products

Valentin Bellassen*, Marion Drut, Federico Antonioli, Ruzica Brečić, Michele Donati, Hugo Ferrer-Pérez, Lisa Gauvrit, Viet Hoang, Kamilla Knutsen Steinnes, Apichaya Lilavanichakul, Edward Majewski, Agata Malak-Rawlikowska, Konstadinos Mattas, An Nguyen, Ioannis Papadopoulos, Jack Peerlings, Bojan Ristic, Marina Tomić Maksan, Áron Török, Gunnar VittersøAbdoul Diallo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The carbon and land footprint of 26 certified food products - geographical indications and organic products and their conventional references are assessed. This assessment goes beyond existing literature by (1) designing a calculation method fit for the comparison between certified food and conventional production, (2) using the same calculation method and parameters for 52 products - 26 Food Quality Schemes and their reference products - to allow for a meaningful comparison, (3) transparently documenting this calculation method and opening access to the detailed results and the underlying data, and (4) providing the first assessment of the carbon and land footprint of geographical indications. The method used is Life Cycle Assessment, largely relying on the Cool Farm Tool for the impact assessment. The most common indicator of climate impact, the carbon footprint expressed per ton of product, is not significantly different between certified foods and their reference products. The only exception to this pattern are vegetal organic products, whose carbon footprint is 16% lower. This is because the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from the absence of mineral fertilizers is never fully offset by the associated lower yield. The climate impact of certified food per hectare is however 26% than their reference and their land footprint is logically 24% higher. Technical specifications directly or indirectly inducing a lower use of mineral fertilizers are a key driver of this pattern. So is yield, which depends both on terroir and farming practices. Overall, this assessment reinforces the quality policy of the European Union: promoting certified food is not inconsistent with mitigating climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-126
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization
Issue number2
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • carbon footprint
  • certified food
  • geographical indications
  • land footprint
  • organic farming


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