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Swedes Require CO2 Labels On Food

From an approving New York Times:

To Cut Global Warming, Swedes Study Their Plates


October 23, 2009

STOCKHOLM — Shopping for oatmeal, Helena Bergstrom, 37, admitted that she was flummoxed by the label on the blue box reading, “Climate declared: .87 kg CO2 per kg of product.”

“Right now, I don’t know what this means,” said Ms. Bergstrom, a pharmaceutical company employee.

But if a new experiment here succeeds, she and millions of other Swedes will soon find out. New labels listing the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the production of foods, from whole wheat pasta to fast food burgers, are appearing on some grocery items and restaurant menus around the country.

People who live to eat might dismiss this as silly. But changing one’s diet can be as effective in reducing emissions of climate-changing gases as changing the car one drives or doing away with the clothes dryer, scientific experts say.

“We’re the first to do it, and it’s a new way of thinking for us,” said Ulf Bohman, head of the Nutrition Department at the Swedish National Food Administration, which was given the task last year of creating new food guidelines giving equal weight to climate and health. “We’re used to thinking about safety and nutrition as one thing and environmental as another.”

Some of the proposed new dietary guidelines, released over the summer, may seem startling to the uninitiated. They recommend that Swedes favor carrots over cucumbers and tomatoes, for example. (Unlike carrots, the latter two must be grown in heated greenhouses here, consuming energy.)

They are not counseled to eat more fish, despite the health benefits, because Europe’s stocks are depleted

“For consumers, it’s hard,” Mr. Bohman acknowledged. “You are getting environmental advice that you have to coordinate with, ‘How can I eat healthier?’ ” …

Yet if the new food guidelines were religiously heeded, some experts say, Sweden could cut its emissions from food production by 20 to 50 percent. An estimated 25 percent of the emissions produced by people in industrialized nations can be traced to the food they eat, according to recent research here. And foods vary enormously in the emissions released in their production.

While today’s American or European shoppers may be well versed in checking for nutrients, calories or fat content, they often have little idea of whether eating tomatoes, chicken or rice is good or bad for the climate.

Complicating matters, the emissions impact of, say, a carrot, can vary by a factor of 10, depending how and where it is grown.

Earlier studies of food emissions focused on the high environmental costs of transporting food and raising cattle. But more nuanced research shows that the emissions depend on many factors, including the type of soil used to grow the food and whether a dairy farmer uses local rapeseed or imported soy for cattle feed.

Business groups, farming cooperatives and organic labeling programs as well as the government have gamely come up with coordinated ways to identify food choices.

Max, Sweden’s largest homegrown chain of burger restaurants, now puts emissions calculations next to each item on its menu boards. Lantmannen, Sweden’s largest farming group, has begun placing precise labels on some categories of foods in grocery stores, including chicken, oatmeal, barley and pasta.

Consumers who pay attention may learn that emissions generated by growing the nation’s most popular grain, rice, are two to three times those of little-used barley, for example

Next year, KRAV, Scandinavia’s main organic certification program, will start requiring farmers to convert to low-emissions techniques if they want to display its coveted seal on products, meaning that most greenhouse tomatoes can no longer be called organic.

Those standards have stirred some protests. “There are farmers who are happy and farmers who say they are being ruined,” said Johan Cejie, manager of climate issues for KRAV.

For example, he said, farmers with high concentrations of peat soil on their property may no longer be able to grow carrots, since plowing peat releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide; to get the organic label, they may have to switch to feed crops that require no plowing.

Next year KRAV will require hothouses to use biofuels for heating. Dairy farms will have to obtain at least 70 percent of the food for their herds locally; many previously imported cheap soy from Brazil, generating transport emissions and damaging the rain forest as trees were cleared to make way for farmland.

The Swedish effort grew out of a 2005 study by Sweden’s national environmental agency on how personal consumption generates emissions. Researchers found that 25 percent of national per capita emissions — two metric tons per year — was attributable to eating.

The government realized that encouraging a diet that tilted more toward chicken or vegetables and educating farmers on lowering emissions generally could have an enormous impact.

Sweden has been a world leader in finding new ways to reduce emissions. It has vowed to eliminate the use of fossil fuel for electricity by 2020 and cars that run on gasoline by 2030.

To arrive at numbers for their company’s first carbon dioxide labels, scientists at Lantmannen analyzed life cycles of 20 products. These take into account emissions generated by fertilizer, fuel for harvesting machinery, packaging and transport.

They decided to examine one representative product in each category — say, pasta — rather than performing analyses for fusilli versus penne, or one brand versus another. “Every climate declaration is hugely time-intensive,” said Claes Johansson, Lantmannen’s director of sustainability…

Since the emissions counts started appearing on the menu, sales of climate-friendly items have risen 20 percent. Still, plenty of people head to a burger restaurant lusting only for a burger.

Kristian Eriksson, 26, an information technology specialist, looked embarrassed when asked about the burger he was eating at an outdoor table.

“You feel guilty picking red meat,” he said.

“You feel guilty picking red meat” – and that is the whole idea, of course.

This is a truly chilling article.

‘Climate change’ will give the government control over every aspect of our lives.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, October 23rd, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Swedes Require CO2 Labels On Food”

  1. Liberals Demise says:

    “Brain Freeze”

    I’ve seen this before and it’s a ugly sight to behold once it sets in. Too bad ……. the Swedes have got it down pat!!

  2. Rusty Shackleford says:

    In my “research” I have learned that total output of CO2 from Sveeee-den is (fur sure ya) .0000000000000000000113% of the total CO2 output of the world. And that includes, da cowz too, dontcha noe, yoo betcha.

  3. beautyofreason says:

    So it begins…

    Live in a cave, crap in the woods, use scratchy toilet paper, constantly monitor your food intake, your light bulbs, and your carbon allotment – all in the name of being an altruistic human being.

    ” to get the organic label, they may have to switch to feed crops that require no plowing.”

    Can we simply call out organic food as being against human rights if used as a standard? It is no healthier than regular crops AND if all farming was organic the sheer loss and waste of organic crops would mean that over a billion people would starve.

    Pesticides are GOOD in that respect.

  4. proreason says:

    The Swedes are like the kid whose Daddy owned the Car Dealership in town. He was driving a BMW when he was 16. Wore clothes you still can’t afford. Was really impressed with himself.

    That kid is in jail now. Divorced 3 times. The dealership is closed and there are weeds in the parking lot.

    Last time you saw him, he tried to get you to buy lunch.

  5. canary says:

    Michelle’s slave plantation garden is submitting high amounts of toxin emissions. The human excrement fertilizer, the secret recipe fertilizer which they will only say contains shale”, topping it off with the compost from the new shed they built. All creating the best tasting lettuce and peas from around the globe. The children don’t even use gloves to wash the food.

  6. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    Not all Swedes are that bad PR. My wife’s Uncle Matts who lives in southern Sweden has been fighting and thumbing his nose at Uncle Sven (Swedish version of Uncle Sam) for as long as I can remember. Uncle Matts seems to be in the constant outrage mode over his government’s antics. The man is a hard worker, wisely invests what money the government allows him to have after heavy taxation, and is extremely fond of Jack Daniels whiskey. More than likely, Uncle Matts will sneer at this directive on labeling food and do whatever the hell he wants. Part of Sweden’s problem is that society as a whole does what the government dictates because it’s considered improper to go against the flow. Rocking the boat is highly discouraged. But there is a growing number of Swedes like my wife’s uncle who are saying enough is enough. Unfortunately the government views them as extremists rather than proponents for reform.

    • proreason says:

      good news, 12. That’s one gene pool I’d hate to see disappear. The Vikings had a major impact on Western civilization, and that doesn’t even count the bikini teams.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      I second that bikini motion!

  7. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    PR, the outraged Swedes definitely need to get back in touch with their inner Odin and start cleaning house. A revival of the aggressive Norse spirit would do wonders in regaining their country away from the Ultra Liberals who have held it ransom for way too long. The libs on capitol hill have nothing over the average Euro Lib.

  8. wirenut says:

    Wheres the BTU rating on whats allowed to be cooked? Is that offpeak rate or wind power? Solar? One or multiple consumers in one place or more than one household? Submit your forms before consuming.

  9. joeblough says:

    We are all literate enough to know of the idiocies and irrational enthusiasms that have come and gone throughout history.

    Our time is not immune.

    The weather mania (which is how I am sure future generations will characterize this) has plenty of historical precedent.

    Certainly weather, sea and sky manias and fears have been nearly universal.

    Unfortunately, human sacrifice to avert anticipated catastrophes is, historically, one of the more common cultural responses.

    While destroying businesses, and indeed whole industries, is indirect compared to putting an individual on a dais and cutting their heart out, the end result is just as surely suffering and death.

    And the thinking is fundamentally the same.

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