Planet-Based Diets, a new approach to making food choices that can help ensure a healthy planet as well as healthy people, was launched by the World Wildlife Fund on 9 October. The initiative offers a global framework and a customized platform which can accelerate the adoption of healthy and sustainable planet-based diets at a national and individual level for the first time.
A new report titled Bending the Curve will help individuals and policymakers understand the health and environmental impact of their diets. The report has found that transitioning to planet-based diets delivers high human health benefits and low environmental impacts including a more stable climate, less wildlife loss and more space for it to thrive and crucially, longer and healthier lives for people.
Brent Loken, lead scientist for Global Food at WWF and lead author of the report, says the Planet-Based Diets Impact & Action Calculator will lay foundations for better decision-making by measuring national health and environmental impacts of any diet, customized across 13 food groups and built on datasets and analysis for 147 countries. He says the calculator will support policymakers in designing more ambitious National Dietary Guidelines and incorporating dietary transition into other policy frameworks in line with global health, climate and environmental targets. “It will help countries to better understand the impacts of dietary shifts so they can provide all their citizens with diets that are good for both people and the planet. An urgent, localized response is needed to transform our existing food systems before the damage to nature and our health is irreversible. Planet-based diets are win-win eating patterns that can globally reduce food-based greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30%, wildlife loss by up to 46%, agricultural land-use by at least 40% and premature deaths by at least 20%,” says Loken. The climate crisis and destruction of nature which are driven significantly by our food system, leave humanity in a state of planetary emergency and against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, it’s become more important than ever to adopt healthier and more considered diets. The major drivers of emerging infectious disease such as COVID-19 have been shown to be the unsustainable conversion of land for agriculture, intensive livestock farming and illegal trade in wildlife, often for consumption.
“It is necessary to change how we produce and consume food to provide everyone with a healthy and sustainable future. Dietary changes take place at local level so it has been important for us to translate the global agenda into actionable national-level analysis. There is no one size fits all solution. In some countries there needs to be a significant reduction in consumption of animal-source foods, while in others there may need to be an increase to tackle burdens of undernutrition. Health and the environment need to be considered together,” says the scientist.
Mogens Jensen, the Danish Minister for Food, Fisheries and Equal Opportunities, says what we eat indisputably has an impact on our health and the planet and we need to change course now to secure nutritious and sustainable diets for future generations. He says this new report from WWF contributes to the debate with new insights and tools that can inspire and potentially pull both policy and consumers towards more sustainable and healthy diets and is needed globally and locally.
“In Denmark we are launching a new set of Danish Food Based Dietary Guidelines and for the first time they combine knowledge on what is good for both human health and climate. This thinking is well in line with the ongoing Nordic work of developing new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations in 2022. I hope many countries and regions are looking into the same work. We need to address the global challenges by using the transformative power of food,” says Jensen.
João Campari, global leader of Food Practice at WWF, says failing to change our diets is having dramatic impacts on our health, nature, climate and other aspects of socio-economic development. He says food systems are the primary driver of biodiversity loss and in the past 50 years, species populations have declined by an average of 68% and food production has caused 70% of biodiversity loss on land and 50% in freshwater.
If we are to achieve food systems which protect nature, while providing everyone with enough nutritious and healthy food, we require an unprecedented level of collaboration to urgently deliver transitions to planet-based diets. WWF is calling for the redesign of National Dietary Guidelines to equate healthy eating with sustainable eating, and implementation of ambitious national food plans.
“We have just nine years and the last nine harvests to transform our food system and deliver the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals or face potentially irreversible damage to nature and people. We need actions across the food system, in production, consumption and food loss and waste. Adopting planet-based diets, which will increase conscious consumption and shift market demands, can accelerate other actions and help achieve sustained change,” says Campari.