The Great Food Transformation: The EAT Lancet Commission Report

Could switching to a plant-based diet help save my health, animals, and support the environment? A group of world experts say the answer is “Yes” and these researchers are calling for a “Great Food Transformation.”

Over 30 scholars released a major report in one of the world’s top medical journals (The Lancet) in January 2019 to make recommendations on how we can improve our health, feed the growing human family, and reduce the ever-growing degradation of the environment. Their Great Food Transformation is simple: We need to reduce animal foods and eat more plant-based.

The EAT Lancet Commission diet recommendation


The Why

The Commission puts forth several compelling reasons to go plant-based:

  1. Plant-based diets are healthier.
    For example, the report discusses the fact that processed red meat is a group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) and unprocessed red meat is a group 2 carcinogen.

    Animal foods are often linked with major chronic diseases whereas whole plant-based are not.

  2. Methane has 56 times the global warming potential vs carbon dioxide. A major source of methane is digestion (“farting”) by ruminant livestock.

  3. Carbon dioxide is released when clearing natural forests into agricultural lands, much of which is used to raise food to feed livestock. This is an inefficient use of land and clearing of vast hectares of forest has potentially negative repercussions on the environment.

  4. Vegan and vegetarian diets were associated with the greatest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and land use.

  5. Vegetarian diets are associated with the greatest reductions in water use.

  6. Plant based foods is a more efficient way to feed the human family.

Animal foods are worse for the environment

Here are some quotations from the paper regarding the environmental impact of animal foods on the environment:

“Our results show that animal source foods have large environmental footprints per serving for greenhouse-gas emissions, cropland use, water use, and nitrogen and phosphorus application.”

“Different food groups affect the environment to different extents: animal source foods are responsible for about three-quarters of climate change effects, ….”

“We estimated that changes in food production practices could reduce agricultural greenhouse-gas emissions in 2050 by about 10%, whereas increased consumption of plant-based diets could reduce emissions by up to 80%”

“Previous studies have highlighted the potential of increasing water-use efficiency by improving water management and technologies, such as irrigation systems, as well as by dietary change towards diets lower in animal products.”

Bad news if we continue eating the way we do

The scientists estimate that if things continue as they currently are, food production could increase greenhouse gas emissions, cropland use, freshwater use, and nitrogen and phosphorus application by 50 - 90% from 2010 to 2050.

“This increase would push key biophysical processes that regulate the state of the Earth system beyond the boundaries and safe operating space for food production.”

The bottom line

Our planet is not headed in a good direction on various levels: our collective health is deteriorating, our environment is worsening, and our growing human population will continue taxing food supplies. According to the Eat Lancet Commission, one step forward in a positive direction would be for the human family to start eating more whole plant based diets.

Link to the EAT Lancet Report: here

George Cho