Frequently Asked Questions
Most frequently asked questions about AGRIBALYSE® program and its data are listed here.
Agribalyse is a complex database, very useful for eco-design projects, in particular with its complete modular and adjustable version. This, accessible in LCA software, is mainly dedicated to environmental assessment experts because it is advisable to be trained both in the methodology of Life Cycle Assessment and in the use of software to be able to handle the data correctly. It is therefore not a "turnkey" tool for organizations new about LCA. In this case, it is recommended to be accompanied by relevant structures.
However, Agribalyse data is intended to be integrated into simple operational tools, including eco-design tools simpler than LCA software. These tools are not intended to be developed within the framework of the Agribalyse project, but rather by filed-based structures, closest to the users. Some tools already exist, others are set to develop.
Agribalyse data is freely accessible free of charge within ACV software. However, software has different modalities. SimaPro requires a paid license while openLCA is free software.
The integration of external data within Agribalyse is being discussed within the strategic committee, with the aim of encouraging external contributions. Agribalyse, however, aims to remain a generic database. Refer to the dedicated page for more information.
Agribalyse is limited to the indicators defined by the LCA methodological framework. Thus the database does not include animal welfare indicators (or social, economic indicators etc.). Reference should be made to other sources on this subject. This is one of the reasons why it is essential to take other indicators into account when comparing animal production systems: Agribalyse data are not sufficient.
Regarding biodiversity, there are no specific indicators in Agribalyse. Indeed, there is no international scientific consensus to quantify the impacts on biodiversity and provide one or more LCA indicators. Work is underway to remedy this. In the meantime, to compare production systems, it is necessary to supplement the LCA indicators with others (eg IFT, SIE, landscape diversity, etc.) reflecting biodiversity issues. Note, however, that several indicators provided by LCA are strongly correlated with biodiversity:
- climate change, which is one of the major factors in the loss of biodiversity;
- land use, which likewise strongly influences the state of ecosystems and biodiversity;
- ecotoxicity, which corresponds to the effects of chemicals on living beings - currently only measured in freshwater environments;
- and to a lesser extent, other indicators revealing the health of ecosystems: eutrophication, acidification, etc.
The agricultural component provides data for variations of products according to different production systems (labels in particular), including organic farming systems. However, it is not easy to compare organic systems with conventional systems only using Agribalyse data, for two main reasons:
- Agribalyse does not fully account for all of the environmental impacts, in particular biodiversity and carbon storage in soils, for which organic systems are known on average to be more virtuous. Agribalyse is based on a flow and impact approach (improvement / degradation of the environment according to practices), and not on the state of the ecosystem.
- In Agribalyse, different organic production systems are proposed, and not an "average France Bio" for such or such agricultural product, the data currently available on organic farming not allowing, at this stage to build a "standard system organic French medium "for each production. Thus, it is difficult to compare organic data with conventional "Middle France" data.
Different farming methods are also offered for each type of animal production (e.g. cow's milk, grassland system; cow's milk, dominant corn system; cow's milk, specialized mountain system). In the same way as for organic systems, it is recommended to complete the Agribalyse data with other indicators in order to compare production methods.
In the food section, only "average" products consumed in France are offered, without variation depending on the production method. Thus, it is not possible to compare an organic burger with a conventional burger.
The analysis of all the food consumed in metropolitan France represents a considerable scientific challenge, by its scale and the complexity of the production, processing and distribution systems, on a globalized market. The calculations therefore needed to rely on a large amount of statistical data, supplemented by hypotheses and expert statements. In the food section, for each product considered, a majority of standard packaging has been defined (cardboard packaging for pizzas, for example). Thus, except for manipulating the data via ACV software, there are no combinations according to the packaging method. Furthermore, the end of life of packaging has been well modeled. Refer to the methodological report for more information.
The database contains a single set of environmental indicators for each of the 2,500 food products. The data do not allow comparison of food products of the same category (e.g. two yogurts from competing brands or an organic hamburger versus a conventional hamburger). These data therefore reflect an "average" reality which allows the comparison of food products of different categories, but not the comparison of identical products from different production methods. To carry out this fine comparison work, it is necessary to collect additional data and adjust the LCA parameters in the software. Refer to the user guide and the methodological report for more information.
AGRIBALYSE is a unique environmental database covering all food product consumed in France. In this way, it is an important data source for setting up an environmental labelling. However, the AGRIBALYSE database cannot be the only source of data used for environmental information for consumer. The ADEME recommends associating other data, for the following reasons:
- LCA scientific indicators are complex and need to be adapted / transformed for general public communication.
- AGRIBALYSE provides environmental impact data for "medium" products: eg. 1kg of raw endives, 1kg of baguette, 1kg of applesauce. It does not provide methods to compare two identical brand products (eg brand X and brand Y apricot yogurt).
- AGRIBALYSE data take into account different environmental impacts, but not all at the same level. The issue of biodiversity in particular is poorly taken into account in the LCA approach, in the absence of an international scientific consensus to quantify the impacts on biodiversity.
Even if it does not pretend to cover all the complexity of the environmental challenges of the agricultural and food sectors, LCA is an essential method for the environmental assessment of agricultural and food products. It is framed by the ISO 14044 standard and used internationally by the scientific community, private actors and political powers. It is recommended in particular because it is the only standardized, multi-criteria, multi-stage environmental assessment methodology applicable to all economic sectors. Thus it is the only method to integrate the different stages (from farm to fork), and to assess all the sectors and countries of production on a common scientific basis.
However, when interpreting the data, the methodological limits of this approach must be taken into account, as with any scientific modeling approach. On the comparison of extensive / intensive, and conventional / organic production systems for example, the Life Cycle Assessment approach provides a necessary but not sufficient insight. ADEME and Agribalyse's partners therefore recommend supplementing the analyzes with other data sources.