The Eat-Lancet Commission report: my favourite eight take-aways - RSA

The Eat-Lancet Commission report: my favourite eight take-aways

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  • Picture of Sue Pritchard
    Sue Pritchard
    Director - Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
  • Sustainability
  • Climate change
  • Environment
  • Science

The Eat-Lancet Commission report published this week has drawn comments from all parts of the food and farming sector, one or two of which may have benefited from a quick read first, before committing to Twitter.

It has much to commend it. Indeed, it is arguably the most comprehensive and ambitious report we’ve seen for some time, addressing the twin challenges of healthy diets and sustainable farming, better for people and planet. 

On 20th February, The RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission will be hosting a debate in partnership with City University’s Food Thinkers Series, to explore what the report means for UK policy and practices. Meanwhile, here are my favourite eight take-aways.

  1. Eat less meat. Yes, this is the message that most commentators focus on. And it has to be said. But the focus on red meat risks the unintended consequence of promoting more intensively produced pig and poultry. I think It’s simple. Let’s focus on no intensively produced meat. No more ‘Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations’, or ‘factory farms,’ or indoor pigs or poultry. Instead, utilise fewer ruminants, in the right ways to convert pasture to high quality protein, and outdoor reared poultry and pigs (which also thrive in woodlands). Livestock should be part of sustainable circular eco-systems. When animal welfare becomes a central component to consider, yes, there will be much less meat, and it will be valued more. The Commission devotes an Appendix to the concept of ‘livestock on leftovers’. It is clear that, within the context of a global reduction in meat and dairy consumption, livestock extensively reared on grass or food waste inedible to humans will continue to have a role to play in sustainable food systems.
  2. Shift the world’s food production from quantity and over-supply, to quality and equity. Underpinning all the many issues the report highlights, is the problem of over-production and over-consumption in some countries, and inequity and malnutrition in others. We need to recalibrate food and farming system towards producing smaller quantities of healthier, nutrient-dense food, in harmony with local climates, cultures and ecosystems.
  3. Eat much more fruit, vegetables, and plant-based foods, and encourage diversity of production in all countries. Cut back dramatically on growing things we don’t need more of – like sugar - and grow more that we do need – such as nuts and pulses - and a much wider range of them, to recover crop and genetic diversity.
  4. Review the concentration of power in the commodities markets, from the number of businesses who control them, to their control of species grown and the limited genetic pools from which they’re drawn. Regulate those businesses’ power to exert too much influence over the markets in which small and medium sized primary producers operate. The report highlights how, in many parts of the world, small family farms need better support – such as investment and infrastructure for shorter supply chains - to develop and grow a much wider variety of foods, more suited to their climates and conditions, which, in turn, also has beneficial health and ecosystem effects.
  5. Food prices should fully reflect the true cost of food, from production, processing to consumption. Reduce or remove chemical inputs to recover bio-diversity and reduce pressures on eco-systems. Food prices will increase in some countries. In rich countries, food is – arguably – too cheap, which devalues it. Protect vulnerable citizens through social measures (such as increasing incomes or redistribution through tax systems).
  6. Focus on waste, from production to post-consumer. If food is valued more, waste is reduced. Develop virtuous circular systems. The Pig Idea in UK seeks to lift the ban on feeding food waste to pigs.
  7. Develop a strategic, integrating framework for land (and oceans) to protect or regenerate ecosystems and mediate pressures on land use. Countries need to set for themselves, and often with their neighbours, the conditions which help them produce food within planetary boundaries, source their energy needs, mitigate and adapt to climate breakdown and protect and recover biodiversity.
  8. Governments must intervene more (and act together). From international trade policies, to making it easier to restrict activities of transnational corporations who profit from producing unhealthy food or depleting ecosystems; through to local governments, to use procurement and zoning laws to promote access to healthy food and restrict access to unhealthy food, the report does not shy away from highlighting the big structural, economic and political questions.

In short, this report is very much more than a bid to reduce meat and promote plant-based diets.  It’s a serious analysis of the way that complex trans-national food and farming systems operate now - and a rallying call to urgent action, to grow a global consensus for more sustainable systems for people and planet.

 Sue Pritchard is Director of the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission

Tickets for the debate at RSA House on 20th February will go live on 6th February on the RSA Events webpage. Dr Sandro Demaio, CEO of EAT, will present the EAT-Lancet Commission findings followed by a panel discussion on the steps that need to be taken to transition to a more sustainable land use and a healthier diet – both core themes of the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission’s work. Tickets are free of charge and available to all. 

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  • Carbohydrates combined with Poly-Unsaturated fats (PUFA aka omega-6 aka VARNISH aka motor oil-> soybean/safflower/sunflower/corn/seasame/canola/flaxseed/cottonseed/linseed) directly cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, obesity and dementia.

  • Once more, to focus on this, because to seems to me to be a MIGHTY BIG elephant in the room for EATLancet . Health wise and wellbeing wise ; not to mention their traditional way of life where it still exists stewards the environment well for possibly mlllenia. These are people traditionally have the greatest meat based diet and yet obesity was unknown...until now. Also problems with rickets & high suicide which is what happens when you remove people from their traditional culture. … …  

  • This is so wrong I don't know where to start. Firstly, your opening comments in point 1 are an indication of what is wrong. In Wales, we don't intensively rear animals. We have 11 million sheep on pasture; and thousands of farmers not big food. We have reforested quite a lot and there is no problem trees are shelter to sheep and they also graze fire breaks, and bracken which can improve bio diversity. Was a Welsh sheep farmer who highlighted problems with red squirrel; and indeed they survive in sheep areas of the UK.  This is your mistake; you think its all big ag. Sheep supply wool and hide as well as meat, and are the very basis of cultural & economic autonomy to rural Wales. The same case can be made be in Navajo sheep farmers, Dakota ranchers , camels and reindeer herders, Indian dairy farmers, or livestock farmers in Ethiopia. Millions of small farmers, who will be hurt first by an anti meat agenda. Already suicides and economic hardship are rife. This is what you don't seem to comprehend, so it is not good saying ah well we don't mean them.  

    And to be replaced by what? Half these areas you can't even grow crops in. And those livelihoods destroyed by the big food corporations that Wellcome, who funded Eat Lancet are invested heavily in and are part of the FReSH group that back it. You globalists talk like its your land: it isn't. Or theirs. It belongs to the people on it and livestock gives autonomy culturally & economically to communities. Corporate pushed Plant based food has also had catastrophic effects on the environment from bee slavery re almond milk to insect apocalyspse in Germany an Puerto Rico even in neighboring non arable land. Monocrops, plantation crops for palm oil coffee etc this is what these corporates done & now they are going to save us? Sure. … …  The only sustainability in which they are interested is profit sustainability; as are Wellcome judging by their boasting in the financial press regularly I guess those companies in which they invested  can't get away with this any more so want livestock farmers land: 

    In addition tilled soil releases carbon into the atmosphere, while pasture sequestrates it. And you may want to look at how much of the UK is pasture. In my county, with forest too, and the land is shared with horse trainers and tourism because of how beautiful it all is and we'd rather it stayed that way. And what happens, when farmers there come under financial pressure, is the land becomes urbanized. So; you destroyed our mines , then the steel, you are not having our sheep got it? End. IF there is going to be short supply of meat for increased demand that should mean farmers - hill farmers for eg on £16.5k average per family - can make a few quid. Instead, EAT Lancet encourages government to put tax on meat, that would threaten their economic stability. The most vulnerable get hurt first while the Tysons and the Cargills invest in lab meat. 

    Neither, do you have any right to dictate what we eat each peoples individual & cultural needs are different. As for health, just look at how stupid global diet suggestions are by seeing what they have done to indigenous peoples in the Arctic, both directly health negatives & wellbeing re suicides removed from traditional hunting & herding lifestyle. … … See that? Obesity unknown in Nenets with a almost total meat diet and now because of noodles they get it.

     And that's where the obesity epidemic in the west is: poor people already don't eat much meat. I know people like you don't know what it is like to have to feed a family on £25 a week after slogging your guts out on minimum wage and spiralling further and further into debt, but the sunday lunch is all many people have left; and that chicken, or piece of lamb between 4 is important; often all that holds the family together under that kind of financial stress. And, if they are fat it isnt because of that big of meat or the 4oz they consume in a bolognese its because of all the cheap pasta rice noddles pizza and biscults and bread they eat to fill empty stomachs. They cant afford to go out so exercise too is limited. I know this because I have been there. I also know what it was like when the strikes were on in the community I am from in the 60s 70s & 80s and we were fed by farmers with eggs, and bacon, and  the miners hunted rabbits with their greyhounds and rabbit stew went a long way. WHERE were the corporates then? We fed ourselves thanks to local farmers; couldn't even get tic in the local supermarket this is the world for many millions. And you want to put food prices up right yeah great millions in austerity for the last 10 years we aren't all comfortable. The banks which are part of your set up are among those that crushed thousands of small rural businesses including ours in Wales 10 years ago, calling in all our borrowing so I don't want any part of their vision either especially masked as compassion and care its all greenwash. 

    In addition, keto diets high in animal fats are being show to have great effect at weight loss and treating variious diseaes how long you going to ignore all this evidence? … …

    Nah, carry on blaming meat. Despite the obvious lie re obesity. It's not robust Science. And we know why. 

    And here's another lot of the money behind it against livestock from the lab meat tech industry Davos elites

    Thankfully, Ethiopia and Italy, have both told them where to go pointing out all the flawed science, and lack of consideration of cultural & individual autonomy. 

  • We also reported on this ground-breaking  EAT-Lancet Commissions proposal for the  Planet Healthy Diet on our daily Latest Headlines which I curate  for our 32,000 professional subscribers , and added that they can support all the new plant-based protein start-up companies  and the need to  expand our global food system by investing more in saltwater -irrigated food crops ( halophytes:e.g. quinoa ) and other overlooked species , in our Green Transition Scoreboard 2018: "Capturing CO2 While Improving Human Nutrition & Health" .

  • This report promotes a diet which is nutritionally deficient and will lead to more ill-health and long term conditions. It promotes foods that are never going to be able to be produced sustainably. It does so for reasons that include conflicts of interest that have not been declared and sponsorship from some of the worst offenders in the food industry. As a serious question, why does work of such poor quality get any air time at all?

    • And another thing. As a rural Welsh business tell your boss his bank did nothing for us in the banking crisis when Nat West called in our O/D so we transferred to Barclays and after 10 years with them we still don't even have an o/d facility. Engage with us indeed.... stop pretending you care because you don't. And defending Eat Lancet takes the biscuit. 

    • This is a serious scientific report funded by the Wellcome Trust.  It is attempting to respond to the twin global challenges of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss on the one hand, and diet-related illnesses on the other.  If by 'conflict of interest' you are referring to EAT's relationship with the FReSH campaign, that is a separate initiative.  You're perfectly entitled to disagree with it, but I have been alarmed to see the ad hominem even misogynist attacks levelled at some of the people connected to this report, and how certain commentators have set up strawmen arguments which are not a fair or accurate reflection of the report itself.  Without a doubt, there are some things which are debatable and there is much still to discuss, especially in relation to how different countries might respond to these twin challenges, in harmony with their own cultures, climates and conditions.  We'll be hosting a series of events on sustainable future farming systems for the UK, with reference to this important report, along with other contributions.  Come along. 

      • So far from comments elsewhere by people who have reviewed this report it appears that it was never peer reviewed and that many of the references are wrong. Apart from any problems with the lack of science. It appears this report was rushed out for reasons that are not yet clear. Serious science it is not. 

        Although you claim this is an independent initiative, the Wellcome Trust is heavily invested in many of the companies that sponsor FReSH. It is absolutely the case that the report advances the interests of these companies.

        If you want one issue for your project to focus on it is that the report does not mention the word soil. It is clear from the real science that human health is absolutely tied to soil health.