Thirty leading scientists from around the world formed a commission to address two of humanity's most pressing threats, poor nutrition and climate change, by proposing a universal diet to which humans could opt.
"Food systems have the potential to promote human health and support environmental sustainability; however, they are currently threatening both, "says the report." Providing a growing world population with a healthy diet from sustainable food systems is an immediate challenge. "
The proposed diet, which is called "the planetary health diet", is based on a greater consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Commission scientists say such a diet can improve human health and increase the likelihood of achieving global sustainability goals. The commission's scientists claim that it is a "win-win" solution that has scientific objectives that use a framework of planetary limits that is defined as "the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the Earth system and is badociated with the subsystems or biophysical processes of the planet. . "
By 2050, the population of the Earth is expected to reach 10 billion people. According to the authors, our current habits of food production and diet "will aggravate the risks for people and the planet."
The effort will continue to be discussed throughout the year in a series of reports published in The Lancet by the commission, the first of which was published on January 16. In the latest report, scientists explain that they expect their proposal to motivate policymakers to implement changes to reshape the world's food system, which, according to scientists, is currently not healthy for many, is the root cause of noncommunicable diseases and contributes to the increase of carbon emissions.
In addition to focusing on what consumers consume, the diet for planetary health focuses on the role of agriculture and the impact it has on wildlife and pollution. It also addresses the growing paradox of this world: that a billion people around the world live with hunger, while another 2 billion are obese.
According to the proposed diet, the optimal daily intake of whole grains, vegetables with starch, fruits, dairy products, proteins, fats and sugars should lead to a total caloric intake of 2,500 per day. Many would probably have to reduce their consumption of red meat and sugars by more than 50 percent. According to the authors, North America eats almost 6.5 times more than the recommended amount of red meat. South Asia eats 1.5 times the proposed amount of starchy vegetables. In return, the consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes should be more than doubled.
To put the proposed diet in perspective, it would essentially allow one meat burger and two servings of fish per week. The majority of the proteins must come from legumes and nuts, the diet proposes. A glbad of milk a day fits the guidelines, as do some eggs a week.
The report recognizes that this would be difficult for many around the world to follow, and is vague as to whether there will be a social policy involved or simply the individualization of responsibility.
"Humanity has never aimed to change the global food system on the planned scale," says the report. "Achieving this goal will require the rapid adoption of numerous changes and an unprecedented global collaboration and commitment: nothing less than a great transformation of food."
If implemented successfully, the authors estimate that between 10.9 and 11.6 million deaths could be avoided each year. To allow the world to follow the diet, the report suggests five strategies, one of which is subsidies. The report also points out that it could be beneficial to encourage farmers to switch food production from large quantities of a few crops to a more diverse production of nutritious crops. The commission says that an effort can be made to reduce food waste by improving crop planning in low and middle income countries. It also suggests that consumers' buying habits in high-income countries should also be improved.
This report is an example of how consumers are expected to change their behavior to save the world, a paradigm that is often criticized considering that it is estimated that 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions. Proposals that individualize the responsibility of saving the planet, such as changes in diet or the use of fewer straws, are often criticized for insufficiently identifying that systemic problems require systemic solutions (ie, regulation). In particular, the world's food system is responsible for almost one third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and a separate report from the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) stated that renewing a global diet could transform the system.
In any case, scientists say that this idea should be taken seriously by those who can lead the way to change.
"The risks are very high," Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, told CNN.