Eating meat has ‘dire’ consequences for the planet, says report
To feed a growing global population and curtail climate change, scientists say we need to radically change our food systems.
BY SARAH GIBBENS
PUBLISHED JANUARY 16, 2019
THERE’S AN ENTIRE industry built around dieting. Most of its products are intended to help people lose weight, gain muscle, or live longer.
But as the global human population steadily climbs, scientists are scrambling to devise a diet plan that can feed 10 billion people by 2050.
A new report, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, claims to do just that. It recommends a largely plant-based diet, with small, occasional allowances for meat, dairy, and sugar. The report was compiled by a group of 30 scientists from around the world who study nutrition or food policy. For three years, they deliberated with the intent of creating recommendations that could be adopted by governments to meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population.
“Even small increases in the consumption of red meat or dairy foods would make this goal difficult or impossible to achieve,” a summary of the report states.
The report’s authors reached their conclusions by weighing different side-effects of food production. They included greenhouse gases, water and crop use, nitrogen or phosphorous from fertilizers, and the potential for biodiversity to take a hit should a region be converted into farmland. By managing all these factors, the report’s authors say climate change-inducing gases could be reduced and enough land could be reserved to feed the world’s growing population.
Under the report’s conclusions, meat and sugar consumption around the world should drop by 50 percent. Who eats less meat and where will vary, says Jessica Fanzo, a report author and professor of food policy and ethics at Johns Hopkins University. Meat consumption in the U.S., for instance, would have to go down and be replaced by fruits and vegetables. But other countries already facing poor nutrition could incorporate meat into roughly three percent of their diet.
Eating meat has ‘dire’ consequences for the planet, says report.
“We’ll be in dire straits,” if no action is taken, says Fanzo.
Following a vegan trend
Recommendations to scale back meat consumption aren’t new. Just this past October, a study published in the journal Nature set similar guidelines for reducing meat and sugar consumption.
What’s different about this new report, says Fanzo, are the steps outlined to put such a change into place.
Branded what the authors call a “Great Food Transformation,” it outlines strategies that range from the least active, simply sharing information, to the most aggressive, eliminating consumer choice…
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