Avoiding environmental costs of food production preferable to 'polluter pays' principle

Jun 26, 2012

Environmental problems can be tackled more effectively by means of the principle of 'seeking the cheapest way of avoiding costs' rather than the 'polluter pays' principle. This is one of the conclusions drawn in a study by Dutch LEI Wageningen UR examining ways of controlling the negative external effects of food production.

In the study ‘Kosten die de kassabon niet halen' (Costs that don't appear on the receipt) by LEI, performed on the instructions of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, the focus is on the negative effects of food production on humans and the environment. These may be current or future effects, occurring within the Netherlands or in other parts of the world. The costs of such effects are not incorporated into the price of the food. LEI has now addressed the question of how such costs could be covered.

In this regard, the policy principle of 'seeking the cheapest way of avoiding costs' - trying to avoid external costs as cheaply as possible - is preferable to the well-known 'polluter pays' principle.

The costs must then be applied in locations and situations in which those effects can be prevented at the lowest costs; that is not always the place in which the pollution occurs. Discussions may therefore arise regarding the justice of the principle, the researchers warn.

At present, various measures are being taken in a number of different EU countries in order to cover or avoid the external costs of food, such as taxes on fat and meat. The introduction of such measures is no simple matter and the effects on eating and buying habits are unclear, the researchers write. Nevertheless, under certain circumstances, pricing can form an important instrument, particularly in combination with information for buyers about the type of costs incorporated into the price. The consumer can then make choices on the basis of sustainability.

If the government introduces measures for the purposes of avoiding external , these will only be effective if their introduction takes place within the framework of a combination of public and private measures and for the right target groups. Knowledge of the interaction between production and consumption is then important - safer food can give rise to reduced kitchen hygiene, for example.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Three billion Asians face food crisis threat: research

Oct 28, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- The escalating cost of rice and other foodstuffs across Asia could cause the reversal of policy reforms, social unrest and deepening poverty for over 3 billion Asians – according to new ...

Is a society with smokers profitable?

Jul 16, 2009

France's latest rise in the indirect taxation on tobacco and alcohol took place in June. The most popular brand of cigarettes went up in price from 3.10 euros to 3.30 euros per packet. Are these taxes a form ...

Study reveals cost of nitrogen pollution

Apr 11, 2011

Nitrogen pollution costs Europe between 70 and 320 billion euros ($100bn-$460bn) per year in its impact on health and the environment, according to a major European study launched in Britain on Monday.

EU agency: air pollution costs exceed $134 billion

Nov 24, 2011

(AP) -- Air pollution isn't just harmful - it's expensive, resulting in health care and environmental costs of more than euro100 billion ($130 billion) in 2009, the European Union's environment agency said Thursday.

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 26, 2012

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...