Strong headline. So, lets get started on the report that dominated the news in recent weeks. Well at least the headlines/dramatic statements were widely reported in the press, without question, by numerous media streams. It’s no wonder we all struggle to believe what we read, even in the mainstream press.
In this Blog, I will cover several aspects on the EAT-Lancet report and will leave it up to readers to make up their own mind. This is my take on the report, and everybody has a right to express their opinion.
Its stated on the EAT website that EAT-Lancet commission brings together 30 world-leading scientists. One of the main drivers is the growing world population (7.5 billion and predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050) and growing/expanding world economies (which leads to evolving diets, more income etc.). A valid question is how do we feed a growing population while improving our environment?
The EAT group was initially set up and funding a few multinational companies but soon expanded. Eat sponsors now included chemical companies , pharmaceutical companies (mostly making diabetes meds) the world’s biggest pasta manufacturer, the world biggest seed oil supplier the world’s biggest breakfast cereal supplier, soy/grains etc… So basically, the majority of the companies have vested interest in the products that this report essentially promotes.
The EAT Lancet report states that current diet of the developed world is completely wrong. Instead of our balanced plate (meat, 2 veg and carbs), we should strictly limit our meat intake, with mainly grains/beans/soy etc. replacing meat. Plant based protein and increased carb options.
The report states that we are ‘getting it seriously wrong’ and how our food choices are having such a negative impact on the environment. Meanwhile, a couple of the authors organised a family wedding in the most expensive hotel in Morocca, flying over 400 guests in. While another travels around the globe in their $20million private jet. I’m sure they offset their carbon foot print on us!
To put that travel in context, my carbon footprint for beef consumption for 5 years is the equivalent to a return flight from Dublin to New York (or 20 km in a old jeep)….
WWF responded to the report. It’s a fantastic, unobjective response to the report so honestly just read it! They state that ‘all food production has impact’ and gives credit to existing agriculture and pasture based systems. In the report, WWF state that Soy & Pulses are the 2nd largest driver of deforestation in the world. The WWF response calls for a ‘top down review’ of the food production. It doesn’t mention palm oil which is causing devasting deforestation, which is unbelievably common in manufactured food & other products now, (credit to Iceland for highlighted it too).
Plant based deficiency
WWF stated ‘not all proteins are equal – equally nutritious or impactful’. They don’t mention the vital deficiency in vitamin B12 if people follow a vegan diet. Check our previous blog here for more information on it. What other nutrients would we not get if we followed the EAT Lancet report? Quite a few! Starting with Calcium, only 55%. Sodium, 22%. Potassium 67%. Vit K (62%). Zoe Harcombe summaries the report on her blog, so worth a read too, click here
The report also claimed that meat consumption has a direct link to obesity. As mentioned earlier, some of the companies that helped fund this report produce sugar filled consumer goods. Make your own mind up. The authors want us believe that eating a balanced meal (meat, 2 veg and carb) is the reason for a dramatic rise of obesity. Are you kidding me? Find me an obese Caveman? Let’s look at the dramatic rise sugary foods, overly processed foods and inactivity of people. Prevention is better than the cure, and obesity is going to cost the governments millions more to treat than prevent. Never mind the negative impact it will have on people personally (more sickness, shorter lifespan etc.). Nutrition, I believe has a much higher impact on obesity than exercise, but our sedentary lifestyles aren’t helping either. The graphic below shows a trend ( I know this isn’t the full story).
Ireland Food Wise 2025
Ireland should be the leaders in agriculture in the world. But we are not, albeit close to the top in many areas. We have incredible heritage, and blessed with a complimentary climate that supports a mainly outdoor grass-fed diet, or extremely efficient production systems, that are maintained, and audited to an extremely high level (our quality system governed by a central body). Like many places, our policymakers are reactive at best, and many times not reactive at all. Recently, the Government produced a report called Food Wise 2025. Another headline-grabbing report promoted by the Government (as they all patted each other on the back), as they claim the report will help create an additional 23,000 jobs in an already huge sector. And 85% increase in exports. 65% increase in primary produce!
So to put context on this, majority of sectors will have to double in production, so double the amount of livestock! In a sector where farmers don’t get a living wage. Or some even a wage at all. And we will ignore the elephant in the room regarding emissions.
Farmers are the backbone of rural communities. We produce food incredible efficiently, at below cost. We are supported by EU funding to close the gap in the price end, yet the majority don’t actually earn a living wage. The funding is to maintain food cost at a level that is affordable for consumers. Farmers maintain the land, hedgerows, grass, soil, waterways etc… We are not averse to change or improvements, but we need help/direction and appropriate supports.
So, I agree 100% that we need a step change in how we farm, how we produce food. But we must do it across the board, in every sector and every industry, without conflict/biased/influencing from vested interested. We need to ask questions, and never take something at face value. We need to ask hard questions now. People in power (Government, law makers etc.) need to made accountable.
Foodwise 2025 needs to be thrown in the bin, and start fresh and introduce strong measures immediately. It would mean a drastic change in farming production systems for some, but if we seen the greater good regarding environmental improvements while helping farming families towards a living wage. They are gatekeepers of the land. Maintaining it in good health for the next generation.
They employ local people, provide jobs, provide income. I get it. But, at the top, their strategy is growth. They don’t care what the farmer gets, nor what the consumer eats, as long as they are growing market share. A recent study showed Supermarkets in Ireland ranked health & wellness as a key concern, yet 40% of specials offers covered high fat/high sugar foods.
I honestly think some mean well, so ideally they would be a stakeholder in a wider group to help change the way we eat.
Credit to France, who recently introduced minimum pricing to ensure farmers are protected. Supermarkets use loss-leading products to entice customers in, typically everyday food goods and it tends to focus on primary farm produce (milk being very common along with vegetables, meat etc…).
There are topics which are not covered, including current food distribution (Its incredible complex and local products don’t get credit for low food mileage), manufactured food (including plant based), impact of vegan produce on land/environment and health claims.
- The EAT-Lancet is not going to solve the world’s problems in regards to food production & environment.
- Huge uncertainty about the author’s neutrality as well as the influence of funding companies
- 100% we need a step change. Not just food production, but how we travel, energy systems, waste, etc. all feed into all our responsibilities to protect the environment.
- Obesity – we need to get serious about it. It will cost governments far more to treat than to prevent. Yet we aren’t proactive enough.
- Supermarkets/retailers have too much influence and power over pricing and therefore quality.
- Super-Food Producers have too much power too, controlling the poof producers. They pour billions into advertising their products. They need to be held accountable.
- Food waste needs to be at 0%. Ambitious I know, but if consumers realised the reality of it, they would buy into it more.