2004-2005: OECD research fellowship: Comparing effect-based and means-based methods of environmental impact assessment in agriculture

Dr Hayo van der Werf (National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) France) visited AERU on a research fellowship funded by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) for a period of 8 weeks in summer 2004. He undertook a case study to explore the differences between effect-based and means-based methods of environmental impact assessment in agriculture.

Methods for the evaluation of the environmental impacts of agriculture are important decision support tools for guiding the evolution towards sustainable agricultural systems. Such methods may be based either on farmer production practices ("means-based") or on the effects these practices have on the environment ("effect-based"). Previous research by Hayo and his colleagues concluded that effect-based methods are preferable, as the link with the environmental impact is direct and the choice of means is left to the farmer. However, means-based methods cost less in data collection, but do not allow a direct evaluation of impact.

The aim of the project was to compare and contrast four different methods of evaluating the environmental impact of three pig production systems: conventional (CP), organic (OP) and Red Label (RL), the latter being a quality label used in France where production practices are intermediate relative to CP and OP. The evaluation methods used were: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), a comprehensive effect-based method; Environmental Management for Agriculture (EMA), a comprehensive means-based method, developed by AERU; FarmSmart, a basic method combining effect-based and means-based indicators, developed by AERU; and Solagro Diagnosis (SD), a basic means-based method developed in France (van der Werf and Petit, 2002).


  • van der Werf, H.M.G., Tzilivakis, J., Lewis, K.A. & Basset-Mens, C. (2007). Environmental impacts of farm scenarios according to five assessment methods. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 118, 327-338.


Prof. Kathy Lewis



University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2020.