Moving to 'planet-based diets' delivers high human health benefits, low environmental impacts: WWF report

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New Delhi: A new World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) report said that the human beings need an urgent and localized response to transform the existing food systems before the damage to nature and our health becomes irreversible.

The WWF said that the 'Planet-Based Diets' are win-win eating patterns that can globally reduce food-based greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 per cent, wildlife loss by up to 46 per cent, agricultural land-use by at least 40 per cent, and premature deaths by at least 20 per cent.

According to WWF, the Planet-based diets will ensure everyone on the planet has healthy and nutritious food and will help bend the curve on the negative impacts of the food system, moving from one which exploits the planet to one which restores it for nature and people.

It will help human beings in reversing nature loss, halt deforestation, reduce water use and pollution, reduce emissions and provide everyone with healthy and nutritious food.

A new report, 'Bending the Curve: The Restorative Power of Planet-Based Diets' will help individuals and policymakers understand the health and environmental impact of their diets and the Planet-Based Diets Impact & Action Calculator will lay the foundations for better decision-making by measuring the national health and environmental impacts of any diet, customized across 13 food groups, and built on bespoke datasets and analysis for 147 countries. 

"The calculator will support policymakers in designing more ambitious National Dietary Guidelines (NDGs) and incorporating dietary transition into other policy frameworks, in line with global health, climate and environmental targets," said WWF.

The report 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.

"As recognised at the recent UN Summit on Biodiversity, the climate crisis and destruction of nature, both of which are driven significantly by our food system, leave humanity in a state of planetary emergency," stated WWF. 

They added that against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it has 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," opined WWF. 

"Dietary changes take place at the local level, so it was important for us to translate the global agenda into the actionable national-level analysis," said Brent Loken, WWF’s Global Food Lead Scientist and lead author of the report. 

"There is no one size fits all solution. For instance, in some countries, there needs to be a significant reduction in the 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." 

"Our Impact & Action Calculator 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," he added.  

"What we eat indisputably has an impact on our health and the planet. And for the latter, we need to change course now to secure nutritious and sustainable diets for future generations. 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. It is needed. Globally and locally," said Mogens Jensen, the Danish Minister for Food, Fisheries and Equal Opportunities. 

"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." 

He added, "I hope many countries and regions are looking into the same work. We need to address global challenges by using the transformative power of food."

"Failing to change our diets is having dramatic impacts on our health, nature, climate and other aspects of socio-economic development," said João Campari, Global Leader of WWF's Food Practice. 

"Food systems are the primary driver of biodiversity loss. In the past 50 years, species populations have declined by an average of 68 per cent and food production has caused 70 per cent of biodiversity loss on land and 50 per cent 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," said Campari.

"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," added Campari.

The WWF on October 8 launched Planet-Based Diets which is a new approach to make food choices that can help ensure a healthy planet as well as healthy people. 

The initiative reportedly offers not just a global framework but also, for the first time, a customized platform which can accelerate the adoption of healthy and sustainable planet-based diets at the national and individual level.  

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