Legume production and its properties
- Legumes, beans, lentils and peas are high in protein and are therefore a very good alternative to meat from a climate perspective. One kilo of legumes only gives rise to about 5-10 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that the corresponding amount of beef gives.
- Legumes have an ability to fixate nitrogen and are therefore particularly suitable for organic cultivation as nitrogen fertilizers do not need to be added.
- In combination with the intake of grain of various kinds, you get a completely adequate protein intake.
- Legumes can be bought fresh, dried or canned. Dried and canned legumes can be consumed all year round, but fresh beans should be bought in Swedish when they are in season.
- Imported fresh beans such as green beans and sugar peas from e.g. Latin America and Africa are air-transported to Europe, which causes greater emissions than the cultivation itself.
- Choose Swedish beans, lentils and peas as they can reduce the impact on biodiversity and the use of pesticides. You also avoid emissions during long transports – provided they are packed in Sweden.
The soybean’s to be or not to be
- Soybean is a legume that is rich in protein and therefore a good crop to cultivate but also a good complement to meat if you are a vegetarian or vegan.
- The largest soy producers in the world are the United States, Brazil and Argentina.
- The soybean contains all the amino acids you need.
- In large-scale cultivation of soybeans in particular, large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides are used.
- The soy that is imported to Sweden comes from South America, among other places, where 1.2 million hectares of forest in the Amazon area are felled for soy cultivation every year and soy cultivations are spreading over the ecologically important savannah landscape cerrado. Cultivation has consequences for the climate because carbon dioxide is released when the forest is cleared and the savannah is cultivated.
- Large amounts of artificial fertilizers, which are very energy-intensive to produce, are also used in the cultivation of soy, which also pollutes watercourses.
- About three quarters of the soy grown in the world is used as animal feed. In Sweden, soy is mainly used as feed for dairy cows, but also for pigs and chickens.
- The soybean itself is thus not the big culprit in the drama, but the meat consumption. Therefore, choose meat that is not raised on soy and choose organic – grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Soy-based meat substitutes
- When buying vegetarian alternatives based on soy, such as soy milk, steaks or sausages, you should check the origin of the raw ingredients and that they are GMO-free.
- The companies that produce these products are often aware of the soy’s impact on the environment and therefore the soy found in the vegetarian products on the market is almost always controlled by the supplier so that the bean is not grown on devastated rainforest land, and not GMO-modified.
- There are also several examples of organic soy in our food products, e.g. in organic soy drink, which is guaranteed to come from sustainable crops, usually in Europe.
Pesticides and GMOs
- Large amounts of chemical pesticides are sprayed over the legume fields with the help of aircrafts and risk harming people, animals and nature in the process.
- The transition to genetically modified (GMO) soybean plants has led to a greater use of pesticides. The Swedish importers of soy say no to GMOs and do not import genetically modified soy.
- Working conditions on soybean plantations are often substandard, with low wages and conditions similar to slave labor.
- Workers are also exposed to great risks when handling pesticides and the number of cancer cases is constantly increasing in the areas where soy is grown.
- In organic meat and milk production, GMO crops cannot be used in the feed, so choose organic meat and dairy products if you want to be sure that they are GMO-free.
- Read more about GMOs here (in Swedish).
Advice for a conscious consumption of legumes
- Replace meat with legumes several times per week.
- Choose organic legumes, this is especially important when buying soybeans.
- Avoid imported fresh beans such as sugar peas and green beans. Instead, buy Swedish sugar peas when they are in season – or grow them yourself?
- Swedish peas and brown beans are extra climate-smart!
Page updated 2021.