Changing the food system to provide sustainable healthy diets
In this Perspective article in the journal Science, the FCRN’s Tara Garnett articulates the need for a strong policy focus on sustainable healthy diets, and assesses the current state of research and understanding on the relationship between health and sustainability.
Existing studies highlight the high environmental impacts and damaging health effects of typical Western diets, that are increasingly consumed around the world. They also show that synergies between diets that are healthier than the current norm and lower in greenhouse gas emissions are possible, even if this alignment is not automatic. Less understood is the relationship between health and a broader range of sustainability concerns - that is, non-climate-related environmental aspects such as biodiversity, as well as socio-economic and cultural dimensions. A major gap in our knowledge is on how to effect shifts in consumption patterns. Finally, she points out that values frame and inform which issues or options are considered or ignored as matters of concern, which sustainability dimensions prioritised, which interventions considered researchable and fundable, and whose voice counts. To be successful policies must take account of the values that not only shape diets but also underlie research and advocacy.
Garnett, T., (2016), Plating up solutions, Science, 16 Sep 2016: Vol. 353, Issue 6305, pp. 1202-1204, DOI: 10.1126/science.aah4765
While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.
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