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Reactions to the EAT-Lancet Commission
Last week’s EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems has received mixed coverage and reactions, some of which we outline here.
The EAT-Lancet report was covered widely in the mainstream media, including:
- Telegraph: 'Planetary health diet': Britons urged to cut meat intake to equivalent of one beefburger a fortnight
- Guardian: New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists
- BBC: A bit of meat, a lot of veg - the flexitarian diet to feed 10bn
- CNN: New 'planetary health diet' can save lives and the planet, major review suggests
- New York Times: Less Beef, More Beans. Experts Say World Needs a New Diet
Some livestock industry voices have been critical of the report.
For instance, the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (ADHB) responded “Farming, in particular dairy and red meat, is part of the solution, making best use of naturally occurring assets to feed a growing population. They are an important nutritional part of a healthy, balanced diet.” The ADHB also noted that alternative proteins are often highly processed and may require imported ingredients, which (it says) might be produced to lower environmental standards.
The ADHB also said “Despite the modelling presented by the EAT Lancet Commission, no study has specifically assessed the environmental impact of diets based solely – or largely – on plant-based protein, as opposed to a mixed diet containing animal protein… In addition, grazing cattle and sheep manage permanent pasture as an effective carbon sink and make use of massive swathes of agricultural land that cannot be used for growing other foods.” For studies on the environmental impacts of different diets including plant-based diet, see Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK, Evaluating the environmental consequences of Swedish food consumption and dietary choices and Environmental impact of omnivorous, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, and vegan diet. For discussion of carbon sequestration through grazing, see the FCRN report Grazed and Confused? For discussion of the ‘livestock from leftovers’ approach that makes use of waste streams and non-arable farmland, see Hannah Van Zanten’s blog A role for livestock in a sustainable food system.
Similarly, the British Meat Processors Association voiced concern, suggesting that the report does not give enough weight to the role of meat in providing nutrients to the global population, and adding “On a more cynical note, the campaign could open the door for new (and old) players in food and agriculture to capitalise on a lucrative new market, and for Governments to eye new tax opportunities in an attempt to curb meat eating.”
In contrast, Beef + Lamb New Zealand welcomed the report, saying “The report also backs matching food production to land capability, which means that New Zealand’s expertise in producing sustainable, lean grass-fed red meat gives us a competitive advantage” (source).
On Twitter, reactions were mixed.
Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, said:
For those who think EAT-Lancet report is a conspiracy against meat, please note this and read the actual report. Issues we raise are: 1. How much? 2. How produced (grain-fed?); 3. ecosystems damage from global meat output; 4. Health gain of less meat + doubled fruit&veg; 5. CO2e. https://t.co/we92XkjMmD— Professor Tim Lang (@ProfTimLang) 21 January 2019
Referring to the report, Allan Savory (ecologist and leading advocate of Holistic Management) said:
Not sure, but do know it is part of the institutional stupidity endangering us more than either global desertification or climate change - which institutional stupidity is causing (not livestock, coal & oil).— Allan Savory (@AllanRSavory) 18 January 2019
Dan Crossley of the Food Ethics Council posted a video reaction to the EAT-Lancet Commission, in which he welcomes most of the findings and warns against oversimplifying the debate between vegan and meat-eating diets.
The Good Food Institute tweeted:
We applaud the #EATLancet report for addressing the impact our diet has on the planet and calling for a shift away from animal protein. The problem? No one is going to follow this advice.— Good Food Institute (@GoodFoodInst) 21 January 2019
The solution? We make the default choice a better one! https://t.co/Zeaxy3Dvqh
Other reactions include:
- The EAT-Lancet Commission report: my favourite eight take-aways by Sue Pritchard, director of the RSA Food, Farming & Countryside Commission.
- Eating Better welcomes the EAT-Lancet report on food planet and health by Eating Better.
- EAT-Lancet report’s recommendations are at odds with sustainable food production from the Sustainable Food Trust.
- Radicaal anders eten nog ingewikkelder dan klimaatakkoord [Radically different food even more complicated than climate agreement] from Foodlog, which raises questions over micronutrients and the feasibility of political action.
- The EAT Lancet diet is nutritionally deficient by obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe.
- 20 Ways EAT Lancet’s Global Diet is Wrongfully Vilifying Meat by Sustainable Dish.
- Plant-based food as part of the solution and driving a sustainable diet by the European Plant-based Foods Association.
- Should we eat red meat? Depends on who’s eating—New York Times by the International Livestock Research Institute News Blog.
See the Foodsource chapter What is a healthy sustainable eating pattern?
While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.