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CO2 labelling of food

We all leave behind a more or less large ecological footprint. In 2020, the climate crisis plays a role that should not be underestimated, along with the Corona pandemic. Oat drink manufacturer Oatly has recognised this and launched a petition for aCO2 label. While car manufacturers are already being held accountable for their new cars, food producers are still left out in the cold. The food industry is responsible for 25% of global emissions, noted Tobias Goj, managing director of Oatly.

In the following blog post, we will show you which factors speak for or against aCO2 label.

Food withCO2 labels– Who and what speaks for it?

In contrast to 10 years ago, the data for the ecological footprint are now much easier to determine. And they should be cheaper too. This requires a binding CO2 label for greenhouse gases, according to Goj.

The petition is supported by both the Scientific Advisory Council for Agricultural Policy, Nutrition and Consumer Health Protection and the Nestlé company. The latter wants to become a climate-neutral company by 2050 and sees thisCO2 label as an intermediate step on the way to achieving its goal. The label should not only refer to theCO2 emissions of the food, but also to its production. This is what Anke Stübing, Head of Sustainability Nestlé Germany, demands.

At Nestlé, the first climate-neutral products are already being planned. There, they also want to maintain climate neutrality along the production and supply chain. From raw material cultivation to production, transport, packaging and distribution.

The global halving ofCO2 emissions is to be achieved by 2030. At its German production sites, Nestlé has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by around 65% in 9 years.

In addition to the aspects mentioned above, the transparency that is created in this way speaks in favour of such labelling. Oatly has already been declaring the emissions ofCO2 in its products since 2018. Consumers can assess the climate impact of certain products directly at the supermarket shelf, explains Tobias Goj.

Rasmus Prieß, who already led a project on the Product Carbon Footprint in 2008, sees added value for the companies themselves. TheCO2 calculation helps producers to identify where greenhouse gases can be saved.

What are the arguments againstCO2 labelling of food?

Uwe Feiler, Parliamentary State Secretary of the CDU/CSU in the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), does not considerCO2 labelling to be sensible. There was a danger of not being able to see the wood for the trees. It is the same with the different labels on food. There’s organic, Nutri-Score, and animal welfare. Regional products are highlighted accordingly. A quick and easy decision influences buying behavior. With additional labeling, this is no longer a given, Feiler fears further.

CO2-Kennzeichnung Lebensmittel | Bild Content

The Bundestag parliamentarians Gitta Connemann and Nina Scheer are taking a similar line with their arguments. ACO2 label does not do justice to the complexity because there is no uniform basis for the burden.

Furthermore, Nina Scheer notes a comparatively obvious point: The packaging is simply too small to show all the environmental impacts.

Rasmus Prieß notes the following: As long as products are not labelled according to uniform principles and taking into account further environmental factors, the declaration of the footprint is problematic. This would shift decisions onto the consumer that would have to be solved elsewhere.

The guiding effect of a label cannot yet be proven. The market research onCO2 labelling is too thin for this. Much more needs to be done to stop the climate crisis.

CO2 labelling for food: What is the solution?

Prieß sees a possible solution in politics and the state. She or he could determine how much land may be used to grow feed for meat production. This indirectly influences prices. Consumption can be better controlled by price and clear guidelines than by labelling.

Consumer protection spokesperson Tabea Rößner notes, “It’s absurd how cheap meat is. Prices must speak the truth.” That is why she also believes that consumption must be controlled via prices. Further, she is rather negative towards Oatly’s petition, but notes the increase in attention on the topic of CO2emissions.

Conclusion on CO2 food labelling

Rößner complains that no support forCO2 labelling on foodstuffs can be expected from politicians. The reason is the meat industry, which has great leeway in the political arena.

Nevertheless, participation on a voluntary basis by food producers cannot be completely ruled out. They will jump on the bandwagon where being green in business will generate more awareness and sales. Oatly is an innovative pioneer in this respect.

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