Rebooting and Reimagining Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems in the G20
Summary by PlantBasedData.org
Climate change, biodiversity loss, food security, and diet-related illnesses are major concerns, and this report by Eat-Lancet shows that changing diets is one of the single most effective strategies we have to building a better future. The concept of planetary health comes from the realization that our human civilization is intertwined with complex natural ecosystems. This investigation of current food consumption patterns shows that dietary choices in G20 countries have a massive impact. The document also comments on the footprint of various G20 National Dietary Guidelines (NDGs), and the footprint it would have if adopted worldwide. As such, the Lancet document demonstrates how the impact of a diet relates to its scalability.
They propose the urgency to adopt the Planetary Health Diet which is a predominantly whole food plant-based diet. Below are the key points from the EAT - Lancet Document. Many more such summaries can be explored on an extensive reference list at PlantBasedData.org.
- The report nicely emphasizes the ecological, health, and food security imperatives for shifting diet.
- The foreword by Dr. Jonathan Foley states that “nothing else we do has come close to how food, agriculture, and land use are causing global environmental harm. Without major changes, our food system will continue to push Earth well beyond its planetary boundaries.” He also makes the key point that the one crucial factor that can simultaneously improve our health, our food security, and our environment at the same time is changing our diets.
- In G20 countries, “unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than does unsafe sex, and alcohol, drug, and tobacco use combined”
- The global adoption of current G20 food consumption patterns by 2050 would exceed the planetary boundary for food-related Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 263%. This would require up to ‘seven Earths’ to support.
- If current consumption patterns are adopted globally over the coming decades, GHG emissions from food production will nearly double by 2050
- The GHG mitigation potential of addressing the major land use of animal agriculture specifically is understated in this report when factoring in the carbon sequestration potential of land better purposed, sometimes referred to as land-opportunity cost.
- Animal based food AND highly processed foods (including highly processed plant foods) have negative impacts.
Whole plant foods are generally better for environment and health.
- Highlights national dietary guidelines which emphasize this principle
- 2019 Canada Food Guide is an example
- However, most of these, including the Canadian guideline, do not meet criteria for the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet
The EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet is presented as a benchmark:
- Nuts, Seeds, pulses, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are the main components
- Protein is mainly from pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds
- Animal products, starches, sugars are considered optional or limited, representing a very small proportion of overall diet
- Based on a 2500 kcal diet
- The EAT-Lancet planetary diet would reduce the global impact of diet, keeping within planetary boundaries while increasing health and food security
“Global food production is the single largest human pressure on Earth, threatening local ecosystems, driving a sixth mass extinction of species, and impacting the stability of the entire Earth system.”
- Despite the well-documented role of food consumption and production as a major driver in the climate and biodiversity crises, the reliance on animal-based food has so far not been considered central to global policy agendas such as the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Convention on Biological Diversity.
- EAT-Lancet advocates for recognition and inclusion of sustainable and healthy diet as part of global strategies.
- This report included a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. For more information on the methods used in analyzing the healthiness and sustainability of national and global food based dietary guidelines, see the modelling study by Springmann (2020).