Sustainable food transition in Portugal: Assessing the Footprint of dietary choices and gaps in national and local food policies

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Dec 20;749:141307. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141307. Epub 2020 Aug 8.


The food system is increasingly acknowledged as the single largest reason for humans' transgression of key planetary limits and it is gaining centrality in our societal run-up towards a sustainable future, especially at city level. In Portugal, a country characterized by high meat and fish consumption, noticeable food wastage, and high urbanization level, fully understanding and then transforming the food system is of priority. Here we investigate the significance of food in comparison to other daily anthropogenic demands and the current sourcing and resource intensities profiles of dietary patterns at Portuguese national and city level through Ecological Footprint Accounting. A critical assessment of gaps in national and local food policies to trigger a major transformation in the Portuguese food system is also conducted on the basis of a newly proposed analytical framework. Results show that food consumption in Portugal is the single largest reason (≈30%) for transgressing the carrying capacity of Earth ecosystems but, despite the urgent need for changes in Portuguese food systems, major deficiencies in local policy implementation exist with weak policy commitment, coordination, and lacking institutional capacity as food policies - especially at the local level - are still not prioritized. Similarities with other countries within Europe and their implications are also discussed.

Keywords: Food consumption; Food policy; Food systems; Food trade; Land for food; Sustainable diets.