General Mills, Kraft, Monsanto Join Food LCA Database

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by | Aug 8, 2013

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root vegetablesGeneral Mills, Kraft Foods and Monsanto are among the first companies to join a project that aims to develop a comprehensive database for food and beverage life cycle assessments (LCAs).

The Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope and consulting firm Quantis launched the World Food LCA Database (WFLDB) today. They expect the project to be completed by 2015.

Other funding partners are the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, Bayer, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Syngenta and Yara. The database founders say they’ll continue to recruit additional companies and government agencies to join the project.

In the food and beverage sector, there is an increasing demand for LCA applied for the quantification of environmental impacts and as a basis for optimization of food production, the organizations say. Currently, however, one of the major limitations of LCAs in this sector is the lack of consistent, up-to-date, comprehensive and transparent inventory data for food products and processes. As a result LCA-based communication is too often driven by results that are not comparable and sufficiently reliable.

High-quality data is essential for well-informed decision-making, both at the company and policy levels, according to project founders. This data is also needed for environmental reporting purposes, for example in Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

The WFLDB will respond to this demand for reliable food-sector data, Agroscope and Quantis say. It will provide more than 200 datasets of agricultural crops and animal products including different production methods as well as food transformation, storage and transport processes.

The scientific modeling principles applied are in line with international standards, according to the founders. All datasets created within the project will be published and the database will be compatible with existing LCA software.

The Life Cycle Assessment research group at Agroscope has been working on the project since 2000. Its research focuses on eco-design, environmental information for food products and resource efficiency in agricultural production systems.

In addition to helping companies generate EPDs and generating food-sector specific LCA data, the project will also serve as a model for how life cycle inventory data can be produced in a given industrial sector, Quantis CEO Yves Loerincik says.

Earlier this month Cargill launched a new assessment tool to help food and beverage customers identify and quantify risks and opportunities in its supply chains.

The tool provides the food-ingredients company and its customers with data to evaluate sourcing issues that may negatively or positively impact their businesses and brands, such as labor practices, the environment and biodiversity. The tool assigns cost and revenue implications to those risks and opportunities identified in the assessment as having the highest likelihood of occurrence and highest business impact.

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