EAT-Lancet Report – A Review

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The EAT-Lancet Commission Report on Healthy Diets has caused a lot of discussion and debate in the food space, and we’re digging in to find out answers to questions some advocates have raised.  If you haven’t heard of the report yet, EAT-Lancet brought together 37 experts from 16 countries to develop scientific targets for healthy diets from sustainable food production.

A general summary of the report’s findings include:

  • The Commission calls for “widespread multi-sector, multi-level action including: a substantial global shift toward healthy dietary patterns; large reductions in food loss and waste; and major improvements in food production practices. The data are both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action.” (p26)
  • Our diets should include less meat and more plants.  It’s healthier for us and the planet.
  • By adopting a planetary health diet, we would help avoid severe environmental degradation and prevent approximately 11 million human deaths annually.
  • Food production is responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of freshwater use.  
  • Globally, over 2 billion adults are overweight or obese, and diet-related diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are among the leading causes of global deaths.
  • Currently, we waste 30% – 50% of our food, from the farm to your fridge.  We must substantially reduce food loss at both levels.
  • We must stop creating new farmland, restore and reforest degraded lan, and protect 50% of the Earth as intact ecosystems.
  • We must improve how oceans are managed so that there remain fish to eat.  Fish must be harvested sustainably.
  • “Sustainably intensify food production to increase high quality output” – or, in other words, we must farm regeneratively and sustainably produce more food on the land we have.  Included in this is restoring the health of soil.
  • Focus on producing healthy food, not large quantities of unhealthy food.

For anyone familiar with food and our current food system, these findings should not come as a surprise.  We all know we must reduce the amount of meat we eat and focus on adding more plants to our diets. Did you know that 90% of land used to grow food is used to feed animals? Reducing meat consumption will increase the amount of land available for growing healthy food, among all the other benefits plant-forward eating provides.

Some people take serious issue with the thought of reducing meat consumption, but it’s important to note that we mean cutting back on factory farmed meat and eating moderate quantities of pasture raised, regenerative meat.  You do not have to be a vegan to follow the recommendations in the report.

The Critics

There has been some intense criticism around the report – some valid, some more emotional than fact based.  The Soil Trust published a thoughtful response to EAT Lancet that’s worth a read. At the heart of their piece is that the EAT Lancet report did not take into account the vast difference between animals raised on factory farms and those raised in a pastured, regenerative way.  (Read their article for more information.)

Though not in the report itself, a handout distributed at the United Nations’ launch offered ways consumers could take action around the report’s findings.  These actions included supporting regenerative farms and food.

Regarding other criticisms, the EAT Foundation has just published an initial response in the form of an FAQ, answering questions several advocates have raised.  

In short, the response clarifies that:

  • The report is not promoting a vegan or vegetarian diet, though they do not discourage them.  They advocate for an omnivore diet that includes approximately two servings per day of animal-sourced foods.  Some critics have taken issue with the drastically smaller portions of meat they suggest consumers eat, and for some people, the reduction might be too drastic – but it’s a goal to work toward, not a change anyone believes will happen overnight.
  • The EAT Lancet report was independently peer reviewed prior to publication, contrary to what some reviews have stated.
  • Rumors floating around the Internet stating the report was financed and supported by large industrial conglomerates that promote industrial farming practices are completely unfounded. The FAQ states, the EAT Lancet report “was solely funded through the generous support of the Wellcome Trust, which had no role in the writing of the report. In total, 19 Commissioners led the preparation of this report, supported by 18 co-authors; some of whom are EAT employees.  Commissioners received no financial compensation from EAT or Wellcome Trust for their contributions. Commissioners are independent scientists financially supported by their individual institutions. Travel and logistics expenses associated with scientific participation and all costs incurred by EAT, including for staff time, were covered by Wellcome Trust funding.”

Please read the FAQ for full details.

In Conclusion

Change Food applauds the EAT Lancet Commission for undertaking such a complex study and agrees that we must reduce meat consumption, work toward a more plant-based diet, and simply have to make serious efforts to minimize and eliminate food waste. The report is a solid foundation on which to build and refine exactly how to achieve the goals and recommendations they’ve laid out.

What do you think??

Note:  The EAT-Lancet Commission Report on Healthy Diets was created with the SDG’s in mind.  Wondering what those are? Read our next article that explains what they are and breaks them down.  We’ll also soon be covering more about regenerative food and farming, to give you a better understanding of what this whole system, pesticide- and synthetic-fertilizer- free type of farming is.

Change Food® works toward a healthier food system for people, animals & the planet.  Learn more about Plant Eat Share – planting food in public spaces. For free.