Food in the anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems
In this article (PDF), the EAT-Lancet Commission developed global scientific targets based on the best evidence available for healthy diets and sustainable food production. Food systems have the potential to nurture human health and support environmental sustainability, however, they are currently threatening both. A universal healthy reference diet was developed to provide a basis for estimating the health and environmental effects of adopting an alternative diet. This diet consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils and includes no or low quantity of red or processed meat, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables. The diet would provide major health benefits, including large reductions in mortality. Moreover, it reduces environmental degradation caused by food production at all scales. Scientific targets for the safe operating space of food systems were established for six key Earth system processes: climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater use, interference with global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles and land-system change. Quantitative scientific targets constitute universal and scalable planetary boundaries for the food system. However, the uncertainty range for these food boundaries remains high because of the inherent complexity in Earth system dynamics. The scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food systems are integrated into a common framework so that win-win diets can be identified. Five specific and implementable strategies are outlined to transform the global food system: 1) Seek international and national commitment to shift towards healthy diets; 2) Re-orient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food; 3) Sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output; 4) Strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans and; 5) At least halve food losses and waste. An opportunity exists to integrate food systems into international, national, and business policy frameworks aiming for improved human health and environmental sustainability. Establishing clear, scientific targets to guide food system transformation is an important step in realising this opportunity.
A webinar about the report is available, given by co-authors of the report. It discusses the report findings and gives a backstage look into the process.
A podcast series aims to translate the report, and its answers to what is needed to fix a broken food system, in practice and how we can all take action.