Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Research article
31 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 31 Jan 2012

Localising the nitrogen imprint of the Paris food supply: the potential of organic farming and changes in human diet

G. Billen, J. Garnier, V. Thieu, M. Silvestre, S. Barles, and P. Chatzimpiros

Abstract. The Seine watershed has long been the food-supplying hinterland of Paris, providing most of the animal and vegetal protein consumed in the city. Nowadays, the shift from manure-based to synthetic nitrogen fertilisation, has made possible a strong land specialisation of agriculture in the Seine watershed: it still provides most of the cereal consumed by the Paris agglomeration, but exports 80% of its huge cereal production. On the other hand the meat and milk supply originates mainly from regions in the North and West of France, specialised in animal farming and importing about 30% of their feed from South America. As it works today, this system is responsible for a severe nitrate contamination of surface and groundwater resources. Herein two scenarios of re-localising Paris's food supply are explored, based on organic farming and local provision of animal feed. We show that for the Seine watershed it is technically possible to design an agricultural system able to provide all the plant- and animal-based food required by the population, to deliver sub-root water meeting the drinking water standards and still to export a significant proportion of its production to areas less suitable for cereal cultivation. Decreasing the share of animal products in the human diet has a strong impact on the nitrogen imprint of urban food supply.

Final-revised paper