Life cycle assessment of autochthonous varieties of wheat and artisanal bread production in Galicia, Spain

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Apr 15;713:136720. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136720. Epub 2020 Jan 15.


For millennia, bread and wheat have been one of the most important sources of nutrients in many civilizations. Today, mechanization and evolution in agriculture and food processing have intensified yields and modified the biological and nutritional aspects of multiple crops and foods. The Galician bread is a reference value of food heritage in Spain, which is made from common wheat grain and is a mixture of indigenous Galician wheat and conventional Spanish wheat. In the pursuit of product excellence, it is interesting to identify the environmental profile as support criteria in decision-making, not only to analyse product environmental sustainability, but also as a marketing element to improve consumer awareness. The paper has a twofold perspective to analyse the environmental burdens of wheat cultivation and the bread sector, using life cycle assessment approach: 1) the comparison of the different types of agricultural systems, i.e. the cultivation of Galician wheat following a strategy of monoculture and crop rotation, certified Galician seed production and its comparison with conventional wheat cultivation and 2) the environmental profile of Galician bread. The functional units chosen were 1 kg of wheat grain transported to the milling facility and 1 kg of Galician bread. The results show that wheat cultivation presents the main environmental impacts of bread production, mainly due to the use of agrochemicals and field emissions. The best cultivation scenario corresponds to a crop rotation system, since chemical fertilisation is not applied. In comparative terms with many staple foods produced in Europe, Galician bread has a low environmental impact. The overall environmental results of bread production draw attention to the dependence of bread and flour manufacturers on the agricultural sector, highlighting the need to share responsibilities across the supply chain. In addition, this study contributes to the stakeholder debate on environmental impacts related to food heritage.

Keywords: Bread production; Crop rotation system; Food heritage; Life cycle assessment; Wheat cultivation.

MeSH terms

  • Bread*
  • Europe
  • Flour
  • Spain
  • Triticum*