EAT – a not for profit and science-based global platform for food system transformation – is tasked to find an answer to a difficult question: can we feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet within planetary boundaries? In January 2019, the findings of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health were published in The Lancet, a leading medical Journal. The answer to the question was ‘Yes’, but a radical transformation of the food system is urgently needed. The first step was identified in (*) increasing the consumption of ‘healthy foods’ (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts) and (*) decreasing the consumption of ‘unhealthy foods’ ( red meat, sugar, and refined grains). According to the study, the global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes will have to double. This new course would also help implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals since our current diet habits are producing irreversible environmental damages such as pushing the planet to its limits and inducing species extinction. The study concludes that ‘a diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits’. To achieving this goal a global shift towards new sustainable food production schemes, including disruptive practices, are needed to prevent irreversible negative impacts on the Earth. A dramatic reduction of food loss and waste needs be added to the equation. The change is extremely urgent since the study reveals that current global food production threaten climate stability and constitutes the single driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries.
It is now useful to inquiry whether the recently published 2020 EU Strategy ‘Farm to Fork’ has adequately responded to these calls for action. The EU Strategy makes reference, in a footnote, to the EAT findings and highlight that ‘the current food consumption patterns are unsustainable from both health and environmental points of view’. It also refers to the need of reducing food loss and waste and that the European Commission will propose binding reduction targets after 2022. As for the global shift, the Strategy confirms the EU will pursue ‘appropriate’ policies, including trade policy, and the Commission will present in 2021, among other things, a legislative Proposal to minimise the placing of products associated with deforestation.
Although the Strategy schedules several awaited Proposals for legislation and initiatives, the big picture and the urgency seem missing.
Building a food chain that works for Consumers, Producers, Climate and the Environment- quoting the narrative of the Commission – in a 10 billion people planet will require a transformational global leadership and a paradigm shift – based vision. Moving towards those new future food systems and production patterns as well as responding to the present environmental challenges implies revising the foundation of the current use of soil, plant, animals or rather their exploitation. Revolutionize food systems and people’s habits at global level require huge investments. Most of the EU countries and the international multilateral agreements are presently not equipped nor modern enough for delivering this change.
The EU has now the opportunity to lead the way, however the goals are highly ambitious and therefore much broader creative and stronger policy commitment, including solid funding allocation, is needed. Transformation not adaptation is required to win the present challenges.
Further reading: May 2019 UN Report reports the unprecedented global Nature decline and Species extinction rate.