What should you know?
- The food we eat, the ways we produce it, and the amounts wasted or lost have major impacts on human health and environmental sustainability. A diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and planet. Getting it right with food will be an important way for countries to achieve the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
- Today, agriculture occupies nearly 40% of global land, making agroecosystems the largest terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. Food production is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of freshwater use. Land conversion for food production is the single most important driver of biodiversity loss.
- Foods sourced from animals, especially red meat, have relatively high environmental footprints per serving compared to other food groups. This has an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, land use and biodiversity loss. This is particularly the case for animal source foods from grain fed livestock.
- What is or is not consumed are both major drivers of malnutrition in various forms. Globally, over 820 million people continue to go hungry every day, 150 million children suffer from long-term hunger that impairs their growth and development, and 50 million children are acutely hungry due to insufficient access to food.
- In parallel, the world is also experiencing a rise in overweight and obesity. Today, over 2 billion adults are overweight and obese, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart diseases are among the leading causes of global deaths.
- Food can be a powerful driver of change: The EAT-Lancet Commission outlines a planetary health diet and targets for sustainable food production that, when combined, can prevent 11 million premature adult deaths per year and drive the transition toward a sustainable global food system by 2050.
- Globally, the planetary health diet favors increasing the consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes alongside small portions of meat and dairy. In parts of the world, this diet involves increasing the access to certain food groups while in other areas, the diet requires a significant reduction in the overconsumption of unhealthier foods.
- A sustainable global food system by 2050 means sufficiently healthy food for all with no additional land use conversion for food, protection of biodiversity, reduced water use, decreased nitrogen and phosphorus loss to waterways, net zero carbon dioxide emissions, and significantly lower levels of methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
What can you do?
- Embrace what works and innovate where more action is needed by:
- Recognizing that there is no silver bullet solution to current food system challenges and that multi-faceted interventions targeting all parts of the wider food value chain is required in order to enact change.
- Developing guidelines based on the planetary health diet and supporting the implementation of these guidelines through regulatory efforts.
- Enabling access to planetary health diets by increasing the affordability of healthy and sustainably produced foods through the alignment of subsidies, taxes and incentives and by reviewing policies targeting food environments, food procurement, public distribution schemes and related infrastructure.
- Ensuring that vulnerable groups have the economic resources to remain food secure.
- Renewing national efforts to restrict advertising and marketing of unhealthy and unsustainable foods targeted towards children, youth and other vulnerable groups, and by supporting a positive reinforcement of planetary health diets.
- Applying effective food labeling laws and regulations to inform consumers about the implicit costs of unhealthy foods to human health and the environment and to shift existing producer practices.
- Engineering agricultural policies toward a greater emphasis on nutritious foods and sustainable food production practices rather than a singular focus on producing greater quantities of food.
- Designing public policies and innovations that will contribute toward achieving at least an overall 50% reduction in food loss and food waste by 2030.
- Provide leadership and commitment by:
- Demonstrating political leadership in setting national food system strategies and initiatives with attainable targets accordingly and by implementing monitoring and reporting mechanisms to measure progress.
- Addressing the different socioeconomic and political drivers of food through the full range of policy levers from “soft” (e.g. voluntary commitments) to “hard” (e.g. legislation) to advance the planetary health diet.
- Using the range of ministerial and departmental portfolios to ensure coherent food system actions.
- Create novel governance arrangements by:
- Adopting a multi-sectoral approach through new partnerships in the food system that span all levels of governance and includes representation from a broad range of actors.
- Empowering departments to recognize synergies in their mandates and enabling cross-departmental collaboration to ensure a coherent policy approach to food system actions.
- Working to establish international land use and ocean governance and management mechanisms.
- Enable cost-effective financing by:
- Implementing fiscal policies such as taxation on products with implicit costs to human health and the environment, and orienting food subsidies toward supporting healthy and sustainable foods.
- Establishing financial incentives to help reduce food waste and food loss.
- Designing or strengthening social protection systems to protect vulnerable population groups.
- Engaging with donors alongside multilateral organizations to create dedicated funding streams and programs that will support sustainable food system transformation.
- Champion advocacy and education efforts by:
- Complementing other policy measures with public education campaigns, particularly on what constitutes a planetary health diet.
- Embedding healthy and sustainable food education into national school curricula.
- Ensuring that all certified health professionals have a demonstrable level of competence surrounding planetary health diets.
- Training and equipping food producers with both the knowledge and skills to deliver healthy and sustainable food options and by creating “win-win” interventions through building novel collaborative relationships.
Click here to download the Brief for Policymakers
EAT_brief_policymakers.pdf | 70 KB