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Since its publication on 17 January, the report Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems has generated over media 5800 articles in 118 countries with over one million shares on social media. According to Altmetric, a service tracking the media impact of ten million scientific papers and other research outputs, the report is already in the top 5% of all research outputs in the database.
Why has it had such an impact? First, food matters. People care about what they eat. Second, policy makers recognize the urgent need to address major challenges relating to hunger, obesity and planetary health and this is rising up the political agenda. In recent years, a plethora of scientific analyses have unequivocally linked our diets and the food system to poor health outcomes and environmental damage. And finally, the biggest scientific challenge of our time is to determine how to feed 10 billion people a healthy diet on a sustainable planet. The Food in the Anthropocene report, an independent analysis written by 37 leading experts on nutrition, food systems and global sustainability from 16 countries, synthesized relevant scientific research to provide a science-based framework to help support that goal. All this helps explain why the report has generated such widespread media interest and public discussion.
Here are a few of the stories about the report. For a complete breakdown of media contact the EAT press team.
The Guardian: The way we eat is killing us – and the planet
Metro UK: What is a planetarian diet?
Financial Times: How to change your diet to save the planet
Financial Times: Cut meat and sugar intake by half, scientists say
MSN: Mengenal 'Win-Win Diet' yang Ramah Lingkungan
Egypt Independent: Human diet causing ‘catastrophic’ damage to planet: study
New Zealand Herald: Niki Bezzant: A diet to save the planet
Aftonbladet: Så bör vi äta för att rädda jorden
Dagens Industri: Rockström: Reglera sockerhalten i maten
The Express Tribune: Human diet: a catastrophe for the planet
National Geographic: Eating meat has ‘dire’ consequences for the planet, says report
Business Insider: Less beef, more beans: Experts say the world needs a new diet
La Presse: Moins de viande, plus de noix: bon pour la santé et la planète
Milliyet: Dünyayı kurtaracak diyet! 10 milyar insanı doyuracak
But who has tried living according to the planetary health diet? Brian Kahn, a journalist at the influential tech media site Gizmodo, embarked on a 30-day diet that followed the recommendations in the report. Towards the end he wrote, “My 30 days is almost up, and honestly, I think I’ll keep the diet up for the most part. For me, it wasn’t that hard, and I really value the health benefits side of eating more whole foods in general. I also really appreciate that it made me more mindful of my eating choices, and that in turn made me feel strangely at ease with both bad ones like pizza. It also changed my relationship with meat, something I wasn’t expecting but am definitely happy about.” Read about his experience here
The report has sparked much debate. Many commentators support the broad conclusions, though some do not agree with all recommendations and yet others strongly dispute some aspects of the report. The authors welcome this discussion. As you would expect when dealing with such contentious issues like food, health and agriculture, during the writing process there were many robust intellectual debates to arrive at a consensus. As with any academic synthesis process, the report is just the start of what is likely to be many iterations. This process will be strengthened by open, critical debate within the research community, policymakers, stakeholders and society at large.
The Guardian: How diet became the latest front in the culture wars
The Guardian: The way we eat is killing us - and the planet
New Zealand Herald: A diet to save the planet
Dagens Industri: Rockström: Reglera sockerhalten i maten
While the overwhelming majority of media articles have accurately conveyed the report’s finding, inevitably some articles and headlines have over-simplified some key messages and important nuances have been downplayed or ignored. In a small number of cases, the media and social media have deliberately misrepresented the report’s conclusions. We are taking these misrepresentations seriously and are responding to the most egregious comments.
The Stockholm Resilience Centre has managed the scientific coordination of the report. Our director Line Gordon’s commentary Feeding the ten billion, published by Project Syndicate (1 February 2019), clarifies and reinforces the messages of the report: “We want the report to start a discussion among all stakeholders – from farmers to consumers – about what we will be eating, and how we produce it, ten, 20, and 30 years from now. If we can do that, our food system can benefit, rather than harm, our own health and that of the planet.” Read the commentary
The EAT-Lancet Commissions co-chairs Walter Willett and Johan Rockström provide additional clarification here (pdf, 126.9 kB) (published 27 March 2019), “Within these scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production there is room for a myriad of different food cultures around the world. This includes diets found in Indonesia, Mexico, India, China and across West Africa, and we specifically cited some of these as examples. In fact, traditional diets are not in danger from adoption of the healthy reference dietary targets presented in the EAT-Lancet report, they are in danger from adoption of industrial Western dietary patterns, which is accelerating globally.”
Findings from the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems provides the first scientific targets for a healthy diet from a sustainable food production system that operates within planetary boundaries for food. The report promotes 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 with unsaturated rather than saturated fats.
The work behind the report is the result of a collaboration between 37 experts from 16 countries with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and political governance. Stockholm Resilience Centre was the scientific coordinator of the report. The authors argue that the lack of scientific targets for a healthy diet have hindered efforts to transform the food system. Based on the best available evidence, the commission proposes a dietary pattern that meets nutritional requirements, promotes health, and allows the world to stay within planetary boundaries.
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief at The Lancet, concludes:
“The transformation that the commission calls for is not superficial or simple, and requires a focus on complex systems, incentives, and regulations, with communities and governments at multiple levels having a part to play in redefining how we eat. Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored.”
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