Recently scientists claim to bring into being a solution to one of the biggest challenges faced by humanity. By 2050, almost 10 billion people can be provided with a nutritious and sustainable diet. A strategy would be created which would avoid the depletion of natural resources and also the food sustainability will be maintained at a certain rate which would be accessible by all.
Reachability will be within the planet’s limits, only some of the combination of diet would be changed, improved food sustainability production through using better agriculture and technology and reduced food waste.
The global food sustainability system will be totally transformed which is urgently needed as three billion and above people are malnourished, this also includes people who are undernourished and overnourished. A large amount of food sustainability has to be produced which will reach beyond terrestrial boundaries, the effect on climate change, loss in biodiversity, pollution and unsustainable changes in water and land use.
The current requirement of diets is pushing the earth away from its planetary boundaries while causing ill health. It has been revealed by the EAT-Lancet Commission which provides the first scientific targets for a healthy diet from a food sustainability production system which would operate within planetary boundaries.
This puts both people and the planet at risk.
A report was made public on Thursday (31st July), which reveals about the diets consisting of a variety of plant-based foods, with low amounts of animal-based foods, refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars and unsaturated rather than saturated fats, which are useful for health.
Human diets have a strong link with health and environmental sustainability and have the potential to nurture both. This would provide healthy diets from food sustainability systems and is an immediate challenge as the population continues to grow. This is projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050 and would grow more with the probability of higher consumption of animal-based foods.
To meet this dispute, dietary changes must be mutual with improved food production and reduced food waste.
The authors of the report stress that unprecedented global collaboration and commitment will be needed, alongside immediate changes such as refocusing agriculture to produce varied nutrient-rich crops, and increased governance of land and ocean use.
To meet this challenge, dietary changes must be combined with improved food sustainability production and reduced food waste. “The food sustainability which we eat and how we produce determines the health of people and the health of the planet respectively.
Dr. Tim Lang of City, University of London is one of the commission authors said “We need a significant transformation and changing the global food sustainability system on a large scale not seen before but the strategies should be appropriate to each country’s circumstances. He also said that the scientific targets devised for a healthy, sustainable diet are another important foundation which will strengthen and drive this change.
The Commission constitutes 37 experts from 16 countries; all will be working together for a three-year project which would bring expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food sustainability systems, economics, and political governance.
Scientific targets for a healthy diet
- Consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will be decreased by more than 50% as compared with the current diets.
- Consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes will be increased more than two-folds.
- The increase in food sustainability production will contribute to improved life expectancy.
- The increase in food sustainability production will also reduce hunger percentage, infant and child mortality rates, and global poverty over the past 50 years,
- These benefits will be pushing away unhealthy diets which are high in calories, sugar, refined starches, and animal-based foods and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and fish around the globe.
The authors contended that the lack of strategies for the scientific targets for a healthy diet have delayed the efforts to transform the food sustainability system. As already said with respect to current diets, the new recommendations for the global diet by 2050 will require the consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by more than 50 percent, while consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must increase more than two-fold.
Imbalanced distribution of Food
North Americans eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while South Asian countries eat only half the recommended amount.
All countries are eating more starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava) than suggested, intakes are ranging from between 1.5 times above the recommendation in South Asia and by 7.5 times in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The world’s diets have got to change dramatically. More than 800 million people have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease,” says co-lead Commissioner Walter Willett of Harvard University.
Rockstrom said Red meat food production has appeared as the biggest cause of land-use change, biodiversity loss, and natural water depletion and accounts for about a fourth of greenhouse gas emissions. “As nations are developing and people become richer the traditional meals are getting replaced by Western-style resource-intensively. These foods are high in calories, protein, and animal-based foods, such as meats and dairy, etc.
At least 820 million people are hungry worldwide, and close to 2 billion people are obese because they eat the wrong food and also dominant diets and food sustainability production are not nutritionally optimal.
The EAT-Lancet Commission says by halving global red meat and sugar consumption and increasing twice the amount of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes consumed can prevent at least 11 million premature deaths per year.
It is observed that the EAT-daily dietary plate consists of approximately 35% of calories from whole grains and tubers, protein from plant sources and 500g per day of vegetables and fruits a day, and 14 gm of red meat.
South Asian countries, including India, are an exception to meat consumption, with the majority eating half of the recommended amount. Countries in North America, by comparison, eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat.
Dr. Willet, a professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. said, however, “India’s has a mostly healthy dietary tradition but now rapidly getting transformed to Westernized homogenized diets high in refined wheat and rice, meat and dairy.
Anyhow by making a small alteration to traditional eating behaviors by promoting healthy nutrition sources such as locally-produced millets, seeds, and legumes to enhance health benefits. India needs some modification to cut back on starchy grains and potatoes and adding more vegetables and fortifying for deficiencies, such as vitamin B12.
Global targets have to be applied locally. “The scientific targets provide a path for healthy diets and food sustainability production and can be adapted to be part of different food sustainability cultures around the world, including in India, Indonesia, Mexico, China and across West Africa,” said Dr. Willet.
Rockstrom said food transformation is as critical as energy transition to save the planet. It is truly, a sense of urgency and emergency, but, if we act now, we can make it happen,” he said.