Industry braces for EAT-Lancet: the sequel

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/ThomasVogel
Image: Getty/ThomasVogel

Related tags Sustainability Health

Scientists from 19 countries have announced the launch of the EAT-Lancet Commission 2.0, which will ‘update and expand the evidence base for sustainable and equitable food systems change’.

In 2019, the EAT-Lancet​ Commission published the first set of global scientific targets for healthy diets, and set forth six environmental boundaries for food production, flagging ‘the disproportionately large impact’ that food has on the planet.

The resulting EAT-Lancet reference diet​​ promoted increased consumption of nuts, fruits, legumes and vegetables and suggested that global consumption of red meat and sugar needed to decrease by more than 50% by 2050. The adoption of the ‘Planetary Health Diet’ would help avoid severe environmental degradation and prevent approximately 11 million premature adult deaths annually, it claimed.

The first EAT-Lancet report was celebrated by many for bringing the issues of health, diet and sustainability to the fore. Others complained it contained crucial shortcomings.

Wageningen researchers, for example, claimed the EAT-Lancet ​lacked ‘practical applicability’; failed on scientific rigor in crucial points and put forward ‘politically alarmist claims’. The report, wrote the Wageningen researchers, “proposes a top-down solution, even when all developmental studies argue for the crucial importance of bottom-up governance; and lastly, the report pretends to provide useful strategies, when in reality most of them result in simple truisms with little empirical impact or strategic guidance”.

EAT-Lancet 2.0 will, however, build on the findings of the first publication, it was announced, and will accelerate progress and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals by including several new elements: (1) greater inclusion of a diversity of diets and production processes evaluated as healthy, sustainable and equitable; (2) greater focus on inclusion, both in the composition of the Commission and in the local diets; (3) a new focus on food justice and social food system goals; (4) a 12-month global consultation with the aim of increasing local legitimacy, inclusion, and adoption of the Commission’s recommendations; and (5) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) like modelling efforts to evaluate multiple transition pathways to health, sustainable, and just food futures. 

EAT-Lancet​ 2.0, due to report in 2024, will be co-chaired by Walter Willett (Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), Johan Rockström (Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research), and Shakuntala Thilsted (Global Lead, Nutrition and Public Health, WorldFish CGIAR, 2021 World Food Prize Laureate). The Commission is made up of 25 commissioners from 19 countries, to reflect diverse perspectives across continents and in various fields including human health, agriculture and livestock production, political science, behaviour change, food justice, and environmental sustainability.   

Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research commented: ”Scientifically, we know today that there is no safe landing in the climate crisis, unless we solve the food crisis. The same applies to biodiversity, freshwater, nitrogen, phosphorus, air pollutants and chemicals. Food is, and will be, the culprit or the saviour determining our future on Earth. We therefore better get it right, for all.”

Dr. Gunhild Stordalen, EAT Founder and Executive Chair, added: “There has been much progress since the first EAT-Lancet in 2019, and this should be applauded. But critically we still lack consensus on global targets, and that means the key trendlines are not yet bending in the right direction. We continue to accelerate in the wrong direction, on a full collision course with nature, away from a future worth having for humanity. The escalating climate and nature crises, the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, and now the terrible war against Ukraine—this entire cascade of interconnected crises scream out to us that we have indeed entered the territory of Code Red for Humanity as the UN Secretary-General termed it, and what’s wrong with food sits at the heart of it all. EAT-Lancet 2.0 will set out to reaffirm and confirm the evidence needed to solve this for all of us.”​   

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