The EAT-Lancet commission, an offshoot of the Lancet, a medical journal from Great Britain, recently published a landmark paper titled: Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets for Sustainable Food Systems https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31788-4/fulltext.
The importance of this report cannot be minimized. Worldwide, there is an epidemic of hunger, obesity and unhealthy diets that “pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined.” The paper also states that agricultural production of current dietary intake is a major contributor to climate change and loss of biodiversity. This one-two punch of addressing human health and its connection to environmental sustainability is a unique, powerful and challenging statement about the state of our global food systems. The EAT commission proposes a “healthy reference diet” leading to increased health of both people and the planet.
Many will be dismayed to learn that dramatically reducing intake of animal products is proposed, as their production is a major contributor to climate change. These calories should be replaced with fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and plant based proteins. According to the authors, the ‘planetary health plate” will save lives and prevent environmental degradation.
In addition to changing diets to transform the global food system and save the earth, the EAT-Lancet commission strategies for food system change include a shift from producing copious amounts of food to producing healthy food (the assumption is means fewer monocultures of grain and more produce). Sustainable intensification of food production needs to occur, with “radical improvements in fertilizer and water use efficiency… and implementation of climate mitigation options and enhancing biodiversity.” Other strategies are improved management and governance of land and oceans, and a reduction in food waste. Achieving these goals will mean greater human health and the enhanced ability of the earth to produce food for an ever-growing population.