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Sweden Mandates Carbon Emissions Labels on Food

cowsNew 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 in Sweden, which is expected to cut the nation’s emissions from food production by 20 to 50 percent, reports the New York Times.

Ulf Bohman, head of the Nutrition Department at the Swedish National Food Administration, who was given the task last year of establishing new food guidelines (PDF) with equal weight for climate and health, told the New York Times that Sweden is the first to do it.

Some of the proposed new dietary guidelines, released over the summer, may seem surprising for some, reports the New York Times. As an example, they recommend that Swedes favor carrots over cucumbers and tomatoes, for example, because the latter two must be grown in heated greenhouses, which consume energy, and are advised to substitute beans or chicken for red meat, due to the heavy greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising cattle, according to the newspaper.

Complicating matters, the emissions impact of a particular food item can vary depending on how and where it is grown, including the type of soil used to grow the food and whether a dairy farmer uses local or imported feed for cattle, reports the New York Times.

Some producers opposed to the labels say the new programs are too complex and threaten profits, and the dietary recommendations, which are being circulated for comment across the European Union, have been attacked by many food producers and groups including Europe’s meat industry, Norwegian salmon farmers and Malaysian palm oil growers, reports the New York Times.

In addition, KRAV, Scandinavia’s primary organic certification program, will require farmers to convert to low-emissions techniques if they want to display its coveted seal on products, which means that most greenhouse tomatoes can no longer be called organic and some farmers with high concentrations of peat soil on their property may no longer be able to grow carrots since peat releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide, reports the New York Times.

KRAV will also require hothouses next year to use biofuels for heating, and dairy farms will have to obtain at least 70 percent of the food for their herds locally, reports the newspaper.

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