Should Individual Food Items Get Water Footprint Labels or Are We Already Overloaded With Information?

supermarket photo

photo: Yuichi via flickr

The water footprint of food is likely to become a growing problem as climate change plays havoc with world water supplies, and as more of the world tries to eat up the social ladder: As in consuming more meat. In an effort to make people more aware of the water intensity of their food, two UK-based groups have proposed that food carry water footprint labels, The Guardian reports:Proposal Would Have General Water Footprint Label
The Food Ethics Council and Sustain issued the briefing "Water labels on food: Issues and recommendations" earlier this week.

It proposes not that food be labelled directly as to how many liters of water were need to grow a kilogram of the foodstuff, but rather be label representing good water stewardship more broadly.

It could also be incorporated into a label containing information on whether the product was part of fair trade regime and/or some sort of carbon labeling.

In theory I like the idea, but in practice I'm not so sure it would make much of a difference.

Greater Education Needed, But Is Labeling the Right Way?
Certainly greater education is needed on the issue of water intensity of food -- it's something TreeHugger and Planet Green have brought up on numerous occasions -- and the fact that a vegetarian or largely vegetarian diet has a much lower water footprint than does the typical meat-heavy diet. And a vegan diet has a lower water footprint still.

But do people really pay attention to labels on food or is it all just information overload? Perhaps there's a way to design a better label that incorporates nutritional information, carbon content, whether it's certified organic or not, water content, without it all be a jumble.

farmers market photo

photo: Natalie Maynor via flickr
What About Farmer's Markets?
And then if we move towards a system wherein more people buy their food at farmers markets, where the items are largely unpackaged (a good thing that) how would this labeling be implemented without it being a burden on already stressed small or mid-sized farmers?

I want to know what readers think on this one: What would you like to see in water footprint labeling? Yes/no. What form should it take?

Similar Proposal in Australia
NOTE: A similar proposal to this one was put forth in Australia, back in April -- so it's certainly an issue we're going to see getting more scrutiny -- and the issue seemed to be met with a big 'meh' by commenters. Surely TreeHugger readers are a passionate enough bunch to care about how much water their food requires.

More on the Water Footprint of Food
From Lettuce to Beef, What's the Water Footprint of Your Food?
6 (More) Reasons a Vegetarian Diet Can Help You Lose Weight, Save Money, and Save the Planet
Measure Your Food's Water Footprint

Should Individual Food Items Get Water Footprint Labels or Are We Already Overloaded With Information?
The water footprint of food is likely to become a growing problem as climate change plays havoc with world water supplies, and as more of the world tries to eat up the social ladder: As in consuming more meat. In an effort to

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