The impact of production and food consumption on the environment can be measured using indicators like the Carbon, Environmental and Water Footprints that express the impact on natural resources in terms of CO2 emissions (associated with climate change), land use and water consumption.
The type, composition and amount of food produced and consumed has a significant influence on CO2 emissions and on the human need for nature in terms of the relationship between consumption of natural resources and the Earth’s ability to regenerate them and also on lastly, water consumption.
Studies of these indicators have shown that the production of foods making up the Mediterranean diet impacts less on natural resources than the production of other diets, for example the North American diet, based mainly on consumption of meat and sugars.
Modern food systems are mostly based on this latter type of consumption; they produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and cause profound alterations of ecosystems in terms of erosion, deforestation, chemical contamination, water deficit and loss of biodiversity.
The rich land and sea biodiversity of the Mediterranean area includes many endemic species, and is threatened by the standardization of cultural practices, by monocropping and by changing life styles. The genetic diversity of food crops and animal breeds is rapidly diminishing, and with it also the food and cultural model typical of the Mediterranean region.