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Environmental assessment with LCA of tomato produced in Morocco and exported to France: the importance of freshwater use impacts

Payen S., Basset-Mens C.. 2013. In : Proceedings of SWUP-MED Project Final Conference "Sustainable water use for securing food production in the mediterranean region under changing climate", 10-15 march, 2013, Agadir, Morocco. s.l. : s.n., p. 612-627. Conference "Sustainable water use for securing food production in the mediterranean region under changing climate", 2013-03-10/2013-03-15, Agadir (Maroc).

About half of the tomato imported to France comes from Morocco and is produced offseason under non-heated greenhouses. The environmental impact of such imported fruits, transported over long distances, is under growing scrutiny. In this study, we applied the Life Cycle Assessment methodology to evaluate the environmental impacts (and identify the hot-spots) of the off-season fresh tomato produced in Morocco and delivered to the French market. In addition to the assessment of the usual environmental impact categories, we applied and commented on the recently developed method from Pfister et al. (2009) to evaluate the impacts of freshwater use. Finally, the results were compared with similar results from the literature for tomato production in France. Over the studied system, the tomato production in greenhousewas the main contributor to human toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, ecotoxicity, water and metal depletion impacts categories; whereas the transportation from Morocco to France was the main contributor to climate change, terrestrial acidification, marine eutrophication and fossil depletion. The contributions of water consumption to the impacts on the three areas of protection defined in the LCA method: human health, resources and ecosystems,were 7%, 8% and 9%, respectively. As a consequence, not considering water use impact in LCA proved animportant gap. Moreover, the LCA-adapted water footprint methodology as proposed by Pfister et al. (2009) probably underestimated the impacts. Our results emphasized the need for developing a more comprehensive method for water use impacts in LCA. The comparison of LCA studies for Moroccan and French (Boulard et al. 2011) off-season tomatoes available on the French market showed that the higher artificialization level in France resulted in greater impacts on total energy consumption, global warming potential, acidification and eutrophication. This work showedthat using the 'food miles' as an indicator of the environmental impacts of food can be misleading: imported fresh tomato had less environmental impacts than domestic tomato grown off-season mainly due to the need for heating the greenhouses in France during winter.

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