THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: The EAT-Lancet Commission Report
A solution or perpetuation of the problem?
Keywords:EAT-Lancet Commission, Global Food System, Sustainability, Healthy Diet, Meat Consumption, Climate Change
In 2019, the international EAT-Lancet Commission proposed a global strategy for “healthy diets from sustainable food systems” (EAT-Lancet Commission, 2019, “Exec. Summary,” para. 1). The authors claimed theirs was “the first attempt to set universal scientific targets for the food system that apply to all people and the planet” (EAT, n.d., p. 5). Within the first three months of its release, the report generated over 5,800 media articles in 118 countries and over a million shares on social media (Stockholm Resilience Center, 2019). The report has been praised primarily by advocates of animal welfare and vegetarian and vegan diets. It has been criticized primarily for its draconian restrictions on the consumption of animal products and its lack of affordability and acceptability to many of those in greatest need of healthy foods.
The Commission acknowledged that the current global agri-food system is not sustainable, noting that “Food systems have the potential to nurture human health and support environmental sustainability; however, they are currently threatening both” (p. 442). The Commission’s “definition of sustainable food production stays within safe planetary boundaries for six environmental processes that together regulate the state of the Earth system” (p. 485). Numerical boundaries were developed for climate change, land-use systems change, freshwater use, biodiversity loss, and interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycle. However, by focusing on the need for global food security as well as ecological sustainability, the Commission implicitly accepts the 1987 United Nations Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, n.d.).
The Commission repeated the conventional wisdom that “increasing crop yields and improving production practices have contributed to reductions in hunger, improved life expectancy, falling infant and child mortality rates, and decreased global poverty” (p. 449). However, it acknowledged the failure of current agri-food systems to provide nutritional food security: “Although global food production of calories has kept pace with population growth, more than 820 million people have insufficient food and many more consume low-quality diets that cause micronutrient deficiencies and contribute to a substantial rise in the incidence of diet-related obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes” (p. 447). . . .
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