#FoodCanFixIt, announced the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health on Thursday. A diverse group of thirty scientists from around the world and the Lancet, one of the top medical journals, presented:
the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.
They didn’t sugar-coat their message in the webinar or report summary from Oslo, saying:
Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth…. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and today’s children will inherit a planet that has been severely degraded and where much of the population will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease…. A radical transformation of the global food system is
The data are both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action. Delaying action
will only increase the likelihood of serious, even disastrous, consequences.
Moving to a healthier diet can save 11 million lives a year, preventing 19% to 24% of deaths worldwide each year. Changing what we eat and how we produce it will make our living Earth healthier too. Agriculture takes up 40% of the land. Food production generates 30% of the greenhouse gases and uses 70% of the fresh water.
As I’ve been saying at Cook for Good, you can save money, eat well, and make a difference.
How Can the Planet Support 10 Billion People by 2050?
We need to make major changes that start tilting our use of resources down even as population grows. The chart below shows peak resource use in 2020. To avoid loss of biodiversity, we need to grow food only on land already under cultivation. The Commission endorses E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth strategy of restoring and rewilding large areas of the planet.
We must make all three of these changes to avoid catastrophe:
- Shift to a mostly plant-based diet
- Cut food loss and waste in half
- Improve production practices at an ambitious level to improve yield, make better use of phosphorus and nitrogen, phase out first-generation biofuels, and more
The Planetary Health Diet Includes Meat, Fish, Dairy, and Eggs
The Commission sought a “safe operating space for food systems,” with ranges of nutrients that would lead to a scientifically supported healthy, sustainable diet worldwide. In rich countries, we need to eat more plants and less animal products, especially less red meat (beef, pork, and lamb). They repeatedly said that they are not calling for a “deprivation diet” and that it allows for up to a “juicy burger once a week or a steak once a month.”
I would have preferred to see a recommended diet that didn’t include any animal products as an end goal. But the safe range starts at zero grams a day for meat, fish, dairy, and eggs as well as for legumes and nuts. They do lump red meat in with added sugars as “less healthy foods.” As the report says, some people depend on “agropastoral livelihoods.” Far too many others don’t have enough to eat so they can’t be choosy. Thus:
Given these considerations, the role of animal source foods in people’s diets must be carefully
considered in each context and within local and regional realities.
A benefit of including some animal products is that it makes the report’s recommendations an easier sell to organizations and still reduces a great deal of suffering.
An Inspiring and Useful Report
This blue-ribbon report can help you convince those in power to make changes. We need not just Meatless Mondays, but Meatless Most Days! It’s just the tool I need as a member of Raleigh’s Environmental Advisory Board this year, as we look at cutting greenhouse gases through better food choices and waste-handling processes. Brilliantly, the Commission provided report briefs for cities, farmers, food-service professionals, health-care professionals, policymakers, and “everyone.” I’ll share the appropriate ones my elected officials, physicians, and folks I know in the food business. I hope you will too!
On the other hand, I’m not sure #FoodCanFixIt alone. We also must address air travel, population, and wasteful consumption.
What Do You Think?
Does this report help you put food choices into perspective? Will you share this information with others? Sign in and share in the comment section below.