CAST releases paper on life cycle assessment

Paper explores impacts of decisions made in complex systems.

January 24, 2022

2 Min Read
CAST releases paper on life cycle assessment

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology’s (CAST) new paper, “Goals, Strengths, and Limitations Governing the Use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) In Food and Agriculture,” is now available for free download.

The methodologies used in life cycle assessment (LCA) originated from risk assessment, reduction, and mitigation strategies in hazardous materials management more than 40 years ago. Use of these concepts and methods have emerged in agriculture over the past 25 years. Understanding the impacts of the decisions made in complex systems like agricultural supply chains is very difficult. 

There are questions that LCA can and can’t answer, according to CAST. The most common questions addressed by LCAs are related to environmental assessment, especially environmental impacts such as global warming potential or water embodied in a product or process. Some questions LCAs cannot answer include normative value decisions, ethical framing and risk mitigation.

While LCA studies may differ greatly in complexity and scope, they all adhere to common principles and share a common methodological framework. The International Organization for Standardization standard 14040 describes the principles of LCA, which include the life cycle perspective, a relative approach, transparency, and comprehensiveness. Even though LCA is not a cure-all for environmental issues, it is a tool that, if correctly and completely used, can logically and methodically examine environmental impacts for specific products, processes, systems, and even entire supply chains.

The paper is available to download on CAST’s website. The webinar will take place at Noon Central on Tuesday, Jan. 25. Dr. Marty Matlock with the University of Arkansas and a panel of the paper’s authors will share highlights of the publication, followed by a Q&A session. Registration for the free webinar can be made here.

Task force authors included:

·        Dr. Marty Matlock, Chair, University of Arkansas

·        Dr. Stephen Pfister, ETH-Zurich

·        Dr. Brad Ridoutt, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Agriculture and Food

·        Dr. Kurt Rosentrater, Iowa State University

·        Dr. Greg Thoma, University of Arkansas

·        Dr. Yuan Yao, Yale University

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