EAT-Lancet Commission shows that diverse, agro-ecological farming and ‘livestock on leftovers’ CAN feed the world
Ground-breaking EAT-Lancet Commission shows that diverse, agro-ecological farming and ‘livestock on leftovers’ CAN feed the world a ‘planetary health diet’
Joanna Lewis, policy director at the Soil Association said; “The Soil Association welcomes the major contribution the EAT-Lancet Commission has made to shattering the myth that agro-ecological farming cannot feed the world. This ground-breaking scientific report makes game changing recommendations defining the direction of travel towards a sustainable food and farming system to achieve healthy diets for all by 2050. This important report must be reflected immediately in Government policy, including amending the draft Agriculture Bill to make public health and agro-ecological farming specific objectives, and ensuring adequate support is available for farmers to make the necessary transition.
“The Soil Association also calls on Public Health England to use its current review of School Food Standards to start normalising the ‘planetary health diet’ in schools. The Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here scheme rewards ‘meat free days’, which makes higher welfare meat affordable but the School Food Standards currently require meat or poultry to be served on 3 out of 5 days in the school week.”
More analysis from the Soil Association
The Commission report is an important correction to those who advocate a ‘business as usual’ brand of ‘sustainable intensification’ that fails to prioritise nutrient density and would perpetuate intensively farmed monocultures dependent on high levels of synthetic nitrogen and chemical use, incompatible with eliminating the use of fossil fuels, restoring soils and biodiversity, and dramatically reducing nitrogen pollution as this report demands.
Instead, the Commission report states clearly that “Strategies to refocus agriculture from producing high volumes of crops to producing varied nutrient-rich crops” and “large increases in carbon sequestration in agricultural soils and above ground” are needed,and calls for “approaches such as conservation agriculture, sustainable and ecological intensification, agroecological and diversified farming systems, precision agriculture, and organic farming.” These systems “use ecosystem services such as pest control, pollination, water regulation, and nutrient cycling to achieve productivity and resilience in agricultural landscapes, while reducing harmful environmental effects.”
In the European context, the IDDRI study ‘Ten Years for Agroecology in Europe’ has demonstrated this potential for a transition to agro-ecological, organic farming to feed Europeans a diverse, healthy diet and maintain export capacity despite reducing overall production by 35% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.
The Soil Association is concerned that the Commission has included a dietary target for palm oil - despite citing a study raising health concerns about industrially processed palm oil - and makes no reference to the devastation to forests and biodiversity being caused by palm oil plantations. Singling out butter for a zero target (when it can be a product of a diverse, sustainable farming system) while exonerating palm oil would appear misguided and incompatible with the call for zero CO2 emissions from land use change.
Contrary to some reports, the report is not ‘anti-meat’. The Commission states clearly that ‘livestock on leftovers’ – animals extensively reared on grass or food waste that is inedible to humans – has an important role to play in delivering a planetary health diet. As part of the goal of halving food waste, we urgently need to resume feeding food waste to pigs.
Dr Richard Horton, Editor in Chief at the Lancet, summarised the Commission’s central message: “Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored.”