Assessing the environmental impacts of production- and consumption-side measures in sustainable agriculture intensification in the European Union

Anna Liza Bais-Moleman*, Catharina J.E. Schulp, Peter H. Verburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Sustainable agricultural intensification (SI) is an important strategy to respond to the combined challenge of achieving food security and providing public goods and ecosystem services to society, including mitigation and adaptation of climate change. Sustainable intensification includes a wide range of measures at both the supply and demand-side of agricultural production. However, currently, it is unclear what are the most effective and priority measures. This study assesses the potential of different SI measures for reducing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and increasing land use efficiency in the European Union's agriculture sector. A scenario approach was combined with life cycle analysis to quantify the environmental impacts of a number of different SI measures. The sustainable intensification measures assessed in this study are: 1) changing human diet; 2) using food waste in livestock diets; 3) shifting from monoculture cropping to crop rotation, and, 4) incorporating crop residues into the soil. The results reveal that the studied SI measures have the potential to increase land use savings, ranging from 0.06 to 3.32 m2/person/day, while GHG emission savings ranging from 71 to 1872 g CO2-eq/person/day can be achieved at EU level. Among these SI measures, changing human diet showed a remarkably high reduction of environmental impacts. On the contrary, increased GHG emission savings in the other SI measures (i.e. crop residue incorporation in the field and replacing soybean meal in conventional feed by food waste-based feed) are counter effected by increased GHG emissions in the energy sector due to reduction of feedstock availability for bioenergy production. The approach used in this study allows the assessment of both the production and consumption-side SI measures and allows the identification of the most effective SI measures and their potential trade-offs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-567
Number of pages13
Early online date27 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • Climate change mitigation strategies
  • Greenhouse gas emission savings
  • Human and livestock diet
  • Land use savings
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Sustainable agricultural intensification


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