Study published January 16, 2019
Study written by Prof Walter Willett, MD; Prof Johan Rockström, PhD; Brent Loken, PhD' Marco Springmann, PhD; Prof Tim Lang, PhD; Sonja Vermeulen, PhD et al.
Synopsis written by Magnus Sylvén
Nature Needs Half (NNH)/Half Earth used as benchmark for sustainable food systems
In a landmark study – “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems” – published online and to be launched subsequently in more than 30 cities across the world, the NNH/Half Earth concept together with seven other strategies has been used to define the safe planetary boundaries for sustainable food production by 2050 without jeopardizing biodiversity and climate as well as meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Today, agriculture occupies nearly 40% of global land, making agro-ecosystems the largest terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. Food production is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of freshwater use. Land conversion for food production is the single most important driver of biodiversity loss.
The EAT-Lancet Commission has defined a planetary health diet, which favors increasing consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes alongside small portions of meat and dairy. Foods sourced from animals, especially red meat, have high environmental footprints per serving compared to other food groups. This has an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, land use and biodiversity loss. This is particularly the case for animal source foods from grain fed livestock. In parts of the world, this diet involves increasing the access to certain food groups while in other areas the diet requires a significant reduction in the over consumption of unhealthier foods. A sustainable global food system by 2050 means sufficiently healthy food for all with no additional land use conversion for food, protection of biodiversity, reduced water use, decreased nitrogen and phosphorus loss to waterways, net zero carbon dioxide emissions, and significantly lower levels of methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
As demonstrated in the analysis of the safe operating space for global food production by the EAT-Lancet Commission, it is the right time to adopt the NNH/Half Earth concept by the Convention on Biological Conservation as part of a Global Deal for Nature by 2050. We simply need this vision for a safe and healthy planet full of life – and it’s doable!