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Will the release of the Planetary Health Diet really make a difference?

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A Planetary Health Diet has been released following the EAT-Lancet Commission, outlining the necessary changes that need to be made to the way we produce and consume our food.

The changes would see a huge increase in the consumption of vegetables and nuts, whilst "consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%".

Vegetables

Image Credit: Jerzy Górecki on Pixabay

It's not news to any of us that our current diets are slowly killing the planet. We as a society have become reliant on the results of mass production, expecting to find the exact product we want when we walk into the supermarket. But this way of life is unsustainable, and will cause irreversible damage to our planet if radical changes are not made soon. The report highlighted that up until now, 'the absence of globally agreed scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production has hindered large-scale and coordinated efforts to transform the global food system'. But will this report really make a difference?

According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), 'globally, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the world's transportation systems combined'. They attributed such impacts to 'water use... pollution... land use' and effects on the ocean. 

calf

According to PETA, of 'all agricultural land in the US, 87 percent is used to raise animals for food'/Image Credit :Ryan McGuire on Pixabay

In 2014, The Guardian published an article which claimed that 'giving up beef [would] reduce carbon footprint more than cars'. This study, conducted by a number of scientists and published in the journal Climatic Change, concluded that the carbon dioxide emissions per day of vegetarian eaters was almost half of those emissions produced by those with a heavy-meat diet.

As well as addressing the benefits a change in diet could have on the environment, the commission also hopes that such changes could help reduce the number of people around the world who suffer from malnutrition. The report states that '"more than 820 million people still lack sufficient food". As such, the report found an "inextricable link between human health and environmental sustainability". 

For many, the effects of climate change have already been felt, with the International Red Cross estimating that '"there are more environmental refugees than political refugees". This is the result of either drought or flooding, both extremes of which have been exacerbated by global warming. 

Climate Refugee Demonstrate for their Rehabilitation in Khulna, Bangladesh

Climate Refugees demonstrate for their Rehabilitation in Khulna, Bangladesh./ Image Credit: The World Wants a Real Deal on Flickr.

In 2013, The Guardian reported that "low-income countries will remain on the frontline of human-induced climate change over the next century". It seems so wrong that third world countries will be the ones to suffer first, or even at all, at the hands of an issue of which the majority of blame lies with the unsustainable practices of the West. To read more about this issue, click here.

Professor Walter Willett claims in the report that "a diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits".

Despite certain guidelines being set out to achieve these changes, the report does admit that the details will vary as many people around the world rely on protein sourced from animals, as well as many populations still suffering from malnutrition. As a result of this, the report admits that "the role of animal source foods in people's diets must be carefully considered in each context and within local and regional realities."

As well assustainablee diets, the report tackled the issue of sustainable food production, with "global food production...constitut[ing] [as] the single largest driver of environmental degredation and transgression of planetary boundaries."

As well as this, the report highlights 'Five Strategies for a Great Food Transformation'. These include: 'Strategy 1: seek international and national commitment to shift towards healthy diets. Strategy 2: reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food. Strategy 3: sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output. Strategy 4: strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans. Strategy 5: at least halve food losses and waste, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals'.

You can see more details of the report here.

Although this may seem like a breakthrough, it only confirms what we have known for decades. Our way of life, the way we produce and consume our food, is not sustainable. If we continue to live in such a destructive and damaging way, the effects on the environment will eventually become irreversible. The big question is: what will our governments do with this information? Judging from how little they have done up until now, my guess is nothing.

Lead Image: Konstantin Kolosov on Pixabay




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