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Health professionals welcome ‘Great Food Transformation’

18 January 2019

New Zealand health professionals are applauding a landmark report that outlines how to achieve healthy and sustainable eating patterns for a future global population of 10 billion people.

The report was produced by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health – a partnership between a global non-profit group and one of the world’s leading medical journals. It is the product of three years of work by 37 international experts working across a range of scientific disciplines.

“The current global food system is known to have harmful effects on both human and planetary health,” says Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.

“Unhealthy diets are a major contributor to rapidly increasing rates of non-communicable-diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers. At the same time, global food production is threatening local ecosystems and pushing the limits of the Earth’s natural systems.”

The Commission recognises that it will be impossible to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals or the Paris Climate Agreement without “a radical transformation of the global food system.”

It outlines a planetary health diet, which recommends intake levels of various food groups that can be adapted to local geography, traditions and personal preferences.

For countries like New Zealand, this will entail substantial dietary shifts. It will require a significant reduction in consumption of red meat and other animal products, and a corresponding increase in consumption of whole plant-based foods such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

In order to achieve this, the Commission calls for multi-sector, multi-level action to encourage a shift to healthy diets, halve our waste and food losses and transform food production systems.

“The report’s conclusions are extremely relevant for New Zealand, where just under half of greenhouse gas emissions stem from agriculture,” says Dr Jones. “In addition, current farming practices are negatively impacting both our freshwater quality and biodiversity.”

“In this context it is critical that the government’s proposed Zero Carbon Bill is inclusive of all greenhouse gases, including those derived from animal agriculture.”

“We call for a whole-of-government approach to urgently transform our food systems and support the transition to a planetary health diet. Healthy and sustainable diets are a win-win for people and the planet,” says Dr Jones.


Dr Rhys Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) (rg.jones@auckland.ac.nz) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, and Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council is a health professional organisation urgently focusing on the health threats of climate change and the health opportunities of climate action. See: www.orataiao.org.nz

Notes to editors:

Background

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet Health

Information about the Commission, the report and other resources are available at https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/

The full article, Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, is available at https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT

About Climate Change and Health Information is available in the following paper from the 2014 NZ Medical Journal:‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’. http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2014/vol-127-no-1406/6366

Health threats from climate changes include: worsening illness and injury from heat and other extreme weather, changing patterns of infection including food poisoning, loss of seafood and farming livelihoods, food price rises and mass migration from the Pacific. Those on low incomes, Maori, Pacific people, children and older people will be hit first and hardest, but nobody will be immune to the widespread health and social threats of unchecked climate change. Direct and indirect climate change impacts are already being seen here from warming oceans and sea level rise.

Health opportunities from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, easing pressure on health budgets include:rapidly phasing out coal; switching from car trips to more walking, cycling and public transport; healthier diets lower in red meat and dairy; and energy efficient, warm homes will all cut emissions while also reducing the diseases that kill New Zealanders most and put our children in hospital – cancer, heart disease, lung diseases and car crash injuries.

ends

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