The food and agriculture sector cannot ignore the major shifts in the industry, prompted by health and environmental concerns. Consumers’ interest for products addressing a diverse range of nutritional trends, such as natural, ‘free-from’, vegan, healthy, high protein etc., as well as consumer awareness of the environmental and sustainability impact of organic, fair trade, sustainable raw materials and packaging, continues to grow. The EAT-Lancet report, expected to be released on 16 January 2019, will detail the health and environmental costs of the current food system and call for an urgent overhaul of food production methods, supply chains and consumption habits.

What is the EAT-Lancet Commission Report?

The report, titled “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems”, is the product of two years of studies carried out by 37 scientists across disciplines, including experts in nutrition and public health, environmentalists, and policy-makers. [1]

The Commission is a joint effort between EAT, a nonprofit focused on making the global food system healthier and more sustainable, and The Lancet, an influential international medical journal. The Commission was formed with the goal of providing a scientific consensus on key questions related to the impact of the food system on the global environment, so that governments and businesses will have concrete information upon which to base their laws and business practices. Its focus is on making food production more sustainable by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, tackling biodiversity loss, and mitigating freshwater depletion, as well as changing the world’s diet to reduce disease and undernutrition.

New Standards Aim to Reach Sustainability and Health Goals

The report will seek to answer the following questions:

  1. What is a healthy diet?
  2. What is a sustainable food system?
  3. What are the trends shaping diets today?
  4. Can we achieve healthy diets from sustainable food systems? How?
  5. What are the solutions and policies we can apply? [2]

In answering these questions, the report is expected to provide scientific targets in order to help drive progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, namely those aiming to reduce carbon emissions, and ensure a sustainable global food supply. To reach these targets, the report will call for improvements in food production technology and management, protein diversification, and reduction of food loss and waste. The report contemplates that meeting these goals will require focused efforts by the food and agriculture industries, supplemented by regulatory action by governments across the globe.

Though the details of the report are not yet publicly available, some of the Commissioners have voiced their concerns that a diet heavy in dairy and meat not only contributes to obesity and other health problems, but also has a negative impact on the environment. [3] To combat these issues, the report will likely call for a reduction in meat and seafood consumption and a shift towards a diet richer in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tubers. It will also likely call for adoption of more sustainable production methods that use significantly less water and greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for the implementation of strategies to reduce food waste.

The Report Impact For Food Producers, Regulations and Consumer Demand

If implemented, the policies set forth in the report are expected to influence supply chains, with a significant impact not only on consumer behavior, but also on regulation of food producers. The global approach of this report also makes it likely that while some countries may be slow to regulate their food systems in the ways suggested by the report, others may act quickly to address the issues through legislation and regulation.

Food producers will be called on to proactively take concrete steps to reduce their impact on the environment while also offering healthier options to consumers.

Food labeling regulations, taxes, subsidies, and mandates may also be utilized to drive consumers towards making healthier and more sustainable choices as recommended in the report. On a practical level, this could result in a reduced demand for meat and other animal products and an increased demand for more plant-based proteins.

Last but not least, it is hoped that the report’s findings will spur a change in consumer behavior. The publication of health findings in the report could convert consumers to more health-conscious and environmentally conscious eating habits in line with those suggested in the findings of the report.

 


[1] The EAT-Lancet Report on Food, Planet and Health
[2] The Report | Food Planet Health
[3] New solutions for our global food system 

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