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Nature Food (2022)
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Food systems are important contributors to global emissions of air pollutants. Here, building on the EDGAR-FOOD database of greenhouse gas emissions, we estimate major air pollutant compounds emitted by different stages of the food system, at country level, during the past 50 years, resulting from food production, processing, packaging, transport, retail, consumption and disposal. Air pollutant estimates from food systems include total nitrogen and its components (N2O, NH3 and NOx), SO2, CO, non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) and particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, black carbon and organic carbon). We show that 10% to 90% of air pollutant emissions come from food systems, resulting from steady increases over the past five decades. In 2018, more than half of total N (and 87% of ammonia) emissions come from food systems and up to 35% of particulate matter. Food system emissions are responsible for about 22.4% of global mortality due to poor air quality and 1.4% of global crop production losses.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available as Excel spreadsheets alongside the paper. Moreover, they are available on the EDGAR website and can be accessed at the following link: When citing the EDGAR-FOOD dataset, please specify the following link: All figures present in the manuscript are also available in figshare under the same doi as the EDGAR- FOOD air pollutant dataset. Source data are provided with this paper.
The code used to produce the figures is available upon request.
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We are grateful to the EDGAR team (M. Crippa, D. Guizzardi, G. Oreggioni, E. Schaaf, M. Muntean, E. Solazzo, F. Pagani and M. Banja) for the work needed to publish the EDGARv6.0 air pollutant dataset ( Special thanks are devoted to F. Monforti-Ferrario, who contributed to the development of the first edition of the EDGAR-FOOD food system shares for the GHGs. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the European Commission.
European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy
M. Crippa, D. Guizzardi & R. Van Dingenen
Unisystems S.A., Milan, Italy
E. Solazzo
European Commission, DG Research & Innovation, Bioeconomy and Food Systems Unit, Brussels, Belgium
A. Leip
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M.C., E.S. and D.G. designed and developed the EDGAR-FOOD air pollutant database; A.L. revised the paper and helped in the identification of the key messages of the manuscript; R.V.D. supported the analysis of impacts using TM5-FASST; all authors helped in drafting the manuscript.
Correspondence to M. Crippa or A. Leip.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Nature Food thanks Srinidhi Balasubramanian and Nina Domingo for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Tables 1–5 and Figs. 1 and 2.
Global air pollutant emissions from food.
Food system emission shares.
Historic emissions and shares.
Sankey diagrams.
Sectoral contribution.
Impact on crops.
Food system shares.
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Crippa, M., Solazzo, E., Guizzardi, D. et al. Air pollutant emissions from global food systems are responsible for environmental impacts, crop losses and mortality. Nat Food (2022).
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