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Subject: Fwd: Orange production leaves hefty carbon footprint

Of course, oranges aren't all that special. Conventional agriculture
has an enormous carbon footprint...

The Weekly Times (Adelaide, Australia) February 13, 2009

Orange production leaves hefty carbon footprint

So you think a glass of orange juice is not only healthy but easy on
the environment? Not so fast. Nutritious, yes, but that glass of
Florida sunshine leaves an unmistakable carbon footprint.

Concerned consumers do have choices. They can turn to more expensive
organic products that are equally healthy and claim to tread more
softly on Mother Earth. Or they can seek out companies that are
trying to reduce their environmental impact.

One US company, Tropicana, owned by beverage giant PepsiCo, is
making an effort to reduce its carbon footprint. Tropicana had its
flagship Pure Premium Orange Juice certified by the Carbon Trust,
becoming the first company to do so in North America. The lifecycle
carbon output of a 64-ounce carton is 1.7 kilograms, or 3.74 pounds,
the Carbon Trust found.

"A firm commitment to environmental sustainability is in our DNA, so
this is a natural step for Tropicana," Neil Campbell, president of
Tropicana Products North America, said in a press release.

People may be surprised at Tropicana's carbon footprint, however,
considering it's nearly as much as the entire product weighs.

The verification process revealed that over 60 per cent of
Tropicana's carbon emissions are tied to agricultural and
manufacturing activities such as grove maintenance, irrigation,
fertilizer and pesticide applications. And, it includes crushing the
fruit into juice. The remaining 40 per cent is tied up in
transportation, packaging, consumer use and disposal.

The foot-printing is part of a wider effort by PepsiCo to reduce its
environmental impact by the year 2015, which includes goals of
reducing water and energy use by 20 per cent and fuel use by 25 per
cent compared to 2006 levels.

A verifiable carbon footprint measures the impact on the environment
in the form of greenhouse gases released by an individual, a company
or specific product. By identifying the elements, Pepsico can see
where and how to make changes.

As for organic orange juice, those associated with its production
claim its carbon footprint is much lighter since they use no
synthetic herbicides or insecticides and limited amounts of
nitrogen-based fertilizer. They have studies to back up the claims.
But no organic product has yet been certified by the Carbon Trust.

"The (carbon) reduction is quite sizable," said Charles Benbrook,
chief scientist with the Organic Center in Troy, Ore., of organic

Benbrook said about one-third of the total energy use (of
conventional citrus) is tied up in fertilizer. "Under organic
production, that would probably be cut at least in half," he said,
referencing a 2006 study done by David Pimentel at Cornell University.

The process used to determine Tropicana's carbon footprint included
mapping the production lifecycle from growing the oranges to
harvesting and squeezing them, to putting the containers on grocery
store shelves and finally disposing of, or recycling, the packaging.

Since Tropicana is the first consumer brand to be carbon-certified in
the US, there is no comparable data on the market for consumers.

Organic orange juice offers consumers an immediate alternative for
those concerned about conventional methods of growing oranges.

"I applaud the efforts of PepsiCo in their efforts to reduce their
carbon footprint," said Matt McLean, a fourth-generation citrus
grower and president of Uncle Matt's Organic Orange Juice in
Clermont, Fla.

Citrus has many natural enemies, and growers are accustomed to
controlling pests and diseases with synthetic products. Nitrogen
fertilizer, made from natural gas and urea, is widely used in global
agriculture practices and contributes to global carbon dioxide

But organic orange production reduces the fertilizer-related energy
use by about one-half and the pesticide-related energy use by
two-thirds, the Cornell University study showed.

Conventional orange production does return some energy to the
environment as livestock feed. Processing plants take the leftover
pulp and peel, dry it and turn it into pellets to use as a supplement
for livestock rations.

McLean is investigating the possibility of having his organic juice
carbon-mapped, but he speculates that his production methods leave a
smaller print on the environment.

"I can't speak to the other growing methods versus ours from the
standpoint of a carbon footprint, I can only tell you this: If their
nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides are causing them (carbon
emissions) to spike, then we have a chance to be lower," said McLean.

McLean uses only natural sources of nitrogen, such as compost,
feather or fishmeal for fertilizer. Natural pesticides such as
ladybugs, parasitic wasps, sulfur and oil from the fast-growing neem
tree are used to keep harmful insect populations down and to fight

A big advantage of organic orange production in Florida is reduced
movement of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers into Lake
Okeechobee, along with other surface and groundwater, said Benbrook.

Most of the land surrounding the lake is in agriculture. Whether it
is ranching, citrus, vegetable or sugarcane production, the activity
contributes to about 92 per cent of the total phosphorus load in
Okeechobee, according to information on

Citrus growers of all stripes have been locked in a battle with
industry-threatening diseases the past several years. Bacterial
diseases like citrus canker and citrus greening are entrenched in
Florida, and synthetic sprays are widely used to combat their spread.

Raymond Royce, a Sebring-based citrus grower and former executive
director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, thinks
organic production will hit a wall of disease.

"Given the disease challenges that are in Florida right now, I have a
feeling that there are going to be fewer and fewer organic growers if
for no other reason that...greening will just kill their trees deader
than a doornail within several years," said Royce.

Citrus canker weakens trees ability to produce a crop and blemishes
the fruit. Greening, however, spread by the Asian citrus psyllid
insect, kills a tree within one to three years of infection.

It is extremely difficult for a commercial orange grower to produce
the volume of oranges needed in organic production to remain viable,
Royce explained.

Organic orange juice sales have grown to nearly US$20 million a year,
McLean estimates - a drop in the bucket compared to annual sales of
US$1.18 billion for conventional orange juice, data from industry
tracker AC Nielsen show.

While conventional production may exact a higher environmental price,
consumers must be willing to pay a much higher financial price for a
glass of organic orange juice.

The average price of a half gallon of organic is about US$5.99-$6.49,
McLean said. That compares to just $6.68 for a gallon of
conventionally grown not-from-concentrate orange juice.

In the midst of one of the worst recessions since the early 1980s and
consumers cutting discretionary spending, that might be a tall order.

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