Meat consumption must drop by up to 90% to save the planet by 2050, scientists warn
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Meat consumption must drop by up to 90% to save the planet by 2050, scientists warn

CONSUMPTION of meat, dairy and sugar across the globe must drop by at least a half over the next three decades to avert catastrophic damage to the planet, scientists have warned.

The EAT-Lancet Commission said current diet trends around the world are unsustainable, and must "change dramatically" to avoid a climate change disaster and improve global health.

Over 30 world-leading scientists behind the new report called for a "Great Food Transformation" that would see a minimum 50% cut in worldwide consumption of unhealthy foods such as red meat and sugar by 2050.

There should also be a 100% increase in consumption of healthy foods like nuts, fruits, vegetable and beans, they said.

According to the findings, such a radical plan could avert between 10.8 million and 11.6 million deaths every year across the planet.

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'Unsustainable farming'

The scientists also called for farming methods to be transformed by limited land use, reducing emissions and cutting down on fertilisers.

In the next 31 years, they said the world should aim to halve the current amount of food waste.

But if nothing changes, current trends will lead to climate change, biodiversity loss, increased pollution, and unsustainable changes in water and land use, they concluded.

"The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong," said one of the report's co-authors, Professor Tim Lang of City University of London.

"We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country’s circumstances."

Huge reduction

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The global dietary shift recommended by the scientists would also involve a huge 90% decrease in the amount of beef and lamb consumed by people from countries such as Ireland, which at 7g a day is roughly equivalent to half a meatball.

People would also be limited to 7g of pork a day - equal to a single cocktail sausage - and just 29g of chicken which is around one and a half chicken nuggets.

Dairy consumption would also be curtailed to just one glass of milk a day (250ml) or even less with cheese or butter.

To get the required daily intake of calories, they claim citizens around the world will be expected to eat almost 18 times as many dry beans, soy and nuts.

The report has been greeted positively by many environmentalists and health professionals, but farmers aren't so impressed.

The Irish Farmers Association claims Ireland has an extremely efficient food production system from a climate perspective, and says proteins from beef and dairy are an important part of a balanced diet.

But the report's co-lead, Commissioner Professor Johan Rockström, said current methods of food production "now pose a threat to the stability of the planet".

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Prof Rockström added: "Sustainability of the food system must therefore be defined from a planetary perspective.

"There is no silver bullet for combatting harmful food production practices, but by defining and quantifying a safe operating space for food systems, diets can be identified that will nurture human health and support environmental sustainability."

The entire report and its dietary recommendations can be read here