Beef and dairy subsidies should be scrapped and redirected to ‘sustainable farming for healthful food’, according to top scientific journal The Lancet.
The new commission by the publication follows a three-year project led by 43 interdisciplinary experts from 14 countries. It focuses on public health, saying that ‘malnutrition in all its forms, including obesity, undernutrition, and other dietary risks, is the leading cause of poor health globally’. It also considers that impending climate change issues will further effect on health.
The Lancet calls for ‘Big Food’ to be treated like Big Tobacco – and says industry leaders should be barred from lobbying governments, as their interference is having a negative impact on people and the planet.
“National dietary guidelines serve as a basis for the development of food and nutrition policies and public education to reduce obesity and undernutrition and could be extended to include sustainability by moving populations towards consuming largely plant-based diets,” says the report.
“However, many countries’ efforts to include environmental sustainability principles within their dietary guidelines failed due to pressure from strong food industry lobbies, especially the beef, dairy, sugar, and ultra-processed food and beverage industry sectors.
“Only a few countries (ie, Sweden, Germany, Qatar, and Brazil) have developed dietary guidelines that promote environmentally sustainable diets and eating patterns that ensure food security, improve diet quality, human health and wellbeing, social equity, and respond to climate change challenges.”
Planetary Health Diet
The commission followed the launch of the Planetary Health Diet earlier this earlier, which was created over two years by 37 scientists specializing in climate change, nutrition, and farming, brought together by the Lancet medical journal in collaboration with NGO the Eat Forum.
The dietary guidelines, which suggest people turn towards a mainly plant-based diet, address how animal farming is driving climate change, and causing water pollution and environmental damage. They also address the damage unhealthy diets are doing to human health, with 2 billion overweight or obese people worldwide, 2 billion malnourished, and 800 million going hungry.
‘Getting it wrong’
“We are currently getting this seriously wrong,” Professor Tim Lang, one of the authors from City, University of London, said about diet.
“We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country’s circumstances.”
Lancet editors Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas said it’s crucial that these changes are implemented. “Civilization is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. If we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance will be restored.”