Transforming food globally
This article was authored by Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation 2011 Scholar Brent Loken, who recently co-authored a report for the EAT–Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health about healthy eating and sustainable food systems at the global level.
Transforming food globally
Food has the potential to nurture human health and support environmental sustainability. Instead, our food is threatening both. In addition to being one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), food production is a major contributor to deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution, and depletion of marine ecosystems. Moreover, food is at the heart of a global health crisis. Unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined. Taken together the outcome is dire. Providing nearly 10 billion people with healthy and sustainable diets by 2050 represents one of the greatest and most urgent health and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century. Without a radical transformation of the global food system, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and today’s children will inherit a severely degraded and potentially uninhabitable planet.
There is substantial scientific evidence that links diets with human health and environmental sustainability. Yet 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. To address this critical need, the EAT-Lancet Commission convened 37 leading scientists from 16 countries in various disciplines – including human health, agriculture, political sciences and environmental sustainability – to develop global scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production. This is the first attempt to set universal scientific targets for the food system that apply to all people and the planet. The Commission shows that it is possible to feed a global population of nearly 10 billion people by 2050 a healthy diet within environmental limits. However, this will only be achieved through widespread, multi-sector, multi-level action that includes a substantial global shift toward a diet rich in plant-based foods, large reductions in food loss and waste, and major improvements in food production practices. The universal goal of achieving healthy diets from sustainable food systems is within reach and the data are sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate and large-scale action. The global response to the Commission since its launch on January 17th, 2019 has been nothing short of extraordinary. Nearly 6000 stories across the globe have been written about it, the food industry is discussing it, people are debating it, and celebrities are championing it. In short, the report is already shaking things up and creating a space where real change can happen. Whether you are a foodie, work on climate change, or just want to make the world a better place, it’s time for each of us to take the findings of the report and turn this knowledge into action, including what you put on your dinner plate tonight.