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Are potatoes a low-impact food for GB consumers compared with rice and pasta?

Publication Date: 
12 April 2013
Author/Contact :
Adrian Williams, Tim Hess and Julia Chatterton, Andre Daccache

Contractor :
Cranfield University

Potatoes are the sustainable carbohydrate; it’s a fact. This comes as a result of new research from Cranfield University to compare the total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and water usage for potatoes against rival carbohydrates, rice and pasta.

Environmental concerns when it comes to food production is a major issue for both the farming and manufacturing industry and that’s why AHDB Potatoes not only commissioned the comparative study but is set to present its findings to levy payers and interested third parties next month.

Caroline Evans, AHDB Potatoes’s head of marketing and corporate affairs, said: “The study builds on our previous research work to show that GB potatoes are healthy. The industry has made significant advances in sustainable production methods and it is important that we focus on generating maximum and consistent exposure for these messages amongst Government and agencies, as well as consumers. Combined with the evidence to support their healthy credentials, this research is ideally positioned to help us inform key audiences to ensure potatoes get top billing when it comes to recommending the types of food we should be eating.”

Top line research findings:

  • Focussing on the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and water usage of the three carbohydrates, the study found that potatoes and pasta have systematically lower GHGE and water impacts than basmati rice on a fresh or dry weight basis.
  • The higher levels of GHGE associated with basmati rice can be accounted to emissions generated during primary production and transportation from India, while the differentiation in water usage can be attributed to the far more significant irrigation requirements of rice.
  • The distinctions between potatoes and pasta were far less pronounced. However, when expressed in terms of a typical portion size, potatoes have lower GHGE and potential water scarcity impact.
  • Therefore, on a global scale, a portion of potatoes potentially has a lower environmental impact than basmati rice or pasta alternatives.

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