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Life Cycle Analysis

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Slides presented during "How legume science is enabling industry "

Webinar 6: European legumes in transition 4th May 2021

"Life Cycle Analysis, and its development to assess the impacts of legume use"

Presented by-  Dr David Styles - NUI Galway and Bangor University (Wales). - Specialist in  environmental foot-printing and techno-economic assessment of food, bioproduct and waste management systems, and life cycle assessment.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is becoming the default methodology to quantify the environmental efficiency of food systems, used to calculate “environmental footprints” of food products. The specific objective of LCA is to capture all significant inputs and outputs across the entire production-consumption-waste value chain, and relate these to environmental pressures (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions), thus enabling benchmarking of environmental efficiency to deliver a “unit” of food (e.g., kg CO2 eq. per kg beef). LCA originated as a tool to evaluate the efficiency of industrial systems; more recent adoption to assess food systems has identified several challenges. Critics would argue that LCA methodology neglects important ecosystem attributes such as soil health and biodiversity, and ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling. Indeed, recent applications of LCA have shown that high-input, high-output systems have smaller carbon footprints than low-input, low-output systems, despite potentially large loss of ecosystem functions and high rates of nutrient leakage in the former systems. Maintaining ecosystem functions is increasingly recognised as central to securing resilient and sustainable food systems. So, is LCA an appropriate methodology to assess the food system transformations necessary to feed the global population within planetary boundaries? This presentation explores best practise and possible adaptations in LCA application to represent the environmental sustainability of legume value chains more accurately.

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