On why the EAT-Lancet’s ‘Great Food Transformation’ will require a ‘Great Economic Transformation’—and more

Illustration by Hiroko Yoshimoto.

A new paper by scientists at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Tufts University analyses the costs of adopting the ‘universal reference diet’ recommended for both human and planetary health by the EAT-Lancet Commission (Willett et al., Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, 16 Jan 2019). Such a diet, report the paper’s authors, is beyond the means—indeed, it exceeds the total household per capita incomes—of more than one and a half billion people today.

Commenting on the paper, veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace Randolph, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says:

‘These findings make a strong case for significantly increasing the availability and accessibility of livestock products, which will require “sustainable intensification”, which means better access to livestock markets and inputs and better livestock feeds, genetics, health services and husbandry.

‘The good news is that unlike eating more vegetables or exercising more, increasing our consumption of meat, milk and eggs is hard-wired in each of us and needs no advertisement or persuasion: If the price of these nutritious foods goes down, their consumption will go up.’

From the ‘Summary’

Background
‘The EAT–Lancet Commission drew on all available nutritional and environmental evidence to construct the first global benchmark diet capable of sustaining health and protecting the planet, but it did not assess dietary affordability.

We used food price and household income data to estimate affordability of EAT–Lancet benchmark diets, as a first step to guiding interventions to improve diets around the world. . . .