Impact of nutrition on the environment

What impact does nutrition have on the environment in Switzerland? Effects of nutrition on air, water, climate, soil, biodiversity, landscape, biosafety, waste and raw materials.

Agricultural production, industrial food processing and packaging, distribution, preparation and consumption are all embedded in global material cycles. This relocates a considerable portion of the environmental impact abroad.

Effects in Switzerland


Ammonia emissions and nitrogen inputs caused by agriculture are well above the carrying capacity of the ecosystems. Although they fell between 1990 and 2000, they have since decreased only marginally and are stagnant at a level that is too high. 


Due to agricultural activities, various lakes have excessive phosphorus levels and therefore lack sufficient oxygen. Plant protection products in excessive concentrations can be found in many smaller and medium-sized surface waters, particularly in regions with a great deal of arable farming and special crops.


In 2016, agriculture contributed 13.2% of Switzerland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases from agriculture have decreased only slightly since 2000 (similar to air and water pollution).

The greenhouse gases generated by food processing, storage (cooling) and transport are an additional burden.


Heavy metals from plant protection products or farm manure pollute individual sites, thereby posing a risk to the conservation of soil fertility and human health.


The target for biodiversity priority areas in agricultural regions is met across Switzerland. However, significant deficits still exist at the regional level, and the quality and interconnection of these areas are not sufficient to stop biodiversity loss.


Agriculture plays an essential role in landscape conservation and maintenance. Nevertheless, the landscape quality is worsening from the loss of structural elements such as shrubs or hedges in areas used for agriculture. The landscape experience is also adversely affected when agricultural land is transformed into settlement areas and when forests spread into abandoned farmland.


A moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified plants in agriculture is in effect until 2021. The role that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will play in future domestic food production needs to be regulated afresh once the moratorium expires.

Waste and raw materials

In Switzerland, around 2.5 million tonnes of food waste is generated every year across the entire value chain, from field to fork. A large portion of the food waste is considered avoidable. In addition, time-saving solutions for meals (e.g. ready-made meals) and disposable packaging for fast food contribute to the volume of waste and exacerbate the littering problem.

Last modification 30.11.2018

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