Actually, I know the EAT-Lancet people won’t eat me because I’m made of meat. To stay within the range of what they consider healthy (and sustainable!) meat consumption, they’d have to divide me into something like 7,500 servings. Walter Willett could put my left calf muscle in his freezer and have all the meat he’s allowed to eat in a year.
If you follow diet and health news and haven’t been in a coma for the past few weeks, you know the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health launched their first Big Event on January 17th, complete with a media blitz. Here are some quotes from an Irish news site:
A major report on healthy diets and food systems commissioned by the Lancet Medical Journal has called for a comprehensive shift in how the world eats.
The EAT-Lancet Commission involved a three-year collaboration between 37 scientific experts from 16 countries.
It concluded that our food systems are faulty and a major contributor to climate change, leaving civilisation in crisis.
The recommendations would imply a 90% reduction in red meat and milk consumption in Ireland, a 70% reduction in chicken, as well as substantial reduction in the consumption of potatoes and some other vegetables.
And some quotes from the New York Post:
A hamburger a week, but no more — that’s about as much red meat people should eat to do what’s best for their health and the planet, according to a report seeking to overhaul the world’s diet.
The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based nonprofit seeking to improve the food system, and published Wednesday by the medical journal Lancet. The panel of experts who wrote it says a “Great Food Transformation” is urgently needed by 2050, and that the optimal diet they outline is flexible enough to accommodate food cultures around the world.
So who are these people? I first wrote about them in this post and described them as a bunch of social-justice warriors, which they are. But there’s quite a bit more behind the curtain, as reported in the Mirror:
The globe-trotting billionaire behind a campaign to save the planet by drastically reducing meat consumption is accused of blatant hypocrisy.
Gunhild Stordalen, a Norwegian who owns a £20million private jet with her husband, regularly flies to exotic destinations around the world.
Air travel pollution is a major contributor to global warming. Critics claim the pair are doing exactly what she is fighting against.
Model-turned-doctor Gunhild, 40, bankrolled the EAT-Lancet study … The green campaigner and vegetarian, founded the EAT Foundation in 2013. It set up the three-year EAT-Lancet commission recruiting 37 experts from 16 countries.
In recent months she has posted photos of herself sunbathing in Mexico, relaxing in Greece, hugging a tree in Costa Rica, meditating with husband Petter in Antibes, living it up in Cuba and posing by a pool in St Tropez.
She was also photographed in front of a backdrop of New York skyscrapers in a post lecturing people to cut meat from their diets.
So we have a billionaire zipping around the world in a fuel-guzzling private jet and lecturing the rest of us about drastically reducing our meat consumption to save the planet. Yup, that figures. Since she bankrolled the EAT-Lancet people, you can bet your bottom dollar they agree with her views. In fact, if you read the EAT-Lancet paper, you’ll see these people are a perfect example of The Anointed – even better than Dr. David Katz, which takes some effort.
To prove the point, I’ll lift some quotes about The Anointed (in bold) from my Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds speech, then mix in quotes from the EAT-Lancet people and my comments.
The Anointed identify a problem. This is now THE BAD. To fix the problem, The Anointed propose a Grand Plan – preferably something bold and new and exciting.
Plenty of The Anointed have proposed Grand Plans over the years. We’ve had Grand Plans to end poverty, improve education, reduce rates of heart disease, get rid of illegal drugs, make health care affordable for all, etc., etc. But Grand Plans don’t get much Grander than the EAT-Lancet group’s Grand Plan, because by gosh, their plan is going to SAVE THE ENTIRE PLANET! Just ask them:
Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience and constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed.
The Commission highlights the need for a Great Food Transformation—ie, a substantial change in the structure and function of the global food system so that it operates with different core processes and feedback.
If you’re highly resistant to being bored to death, go find a copy of the full report (which I downloaded) and read it. These people have produced a detailed Grand Plan, complete with marching orders for nearly everyone and everything involved in food production. Here’s just a taste:
Our vision, with scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production, integrates food, health, and environmental policy into many policy areas, including trade, economics, rural livelihoods, equity, culture, society, and community. This inclusion is a strength, not a diffusion of effort. For the food system to change and for healthy diets to be available to all requires not only food production or consumption to change, but also active involvement of sectors in the middle of the food chain, such as food processing, storage, logistics, retail, and food service. These sectors need to be engaged in the transformation, not least because these intermediary sectors have economic power and cultural influence in food systems.
And another taste – try to stay awake:
By assessing the existing scientific evidence, the Commission developed global scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production and integrated these universal scientific targets into a common framework, the safe operating space for food systems, so that planetary health diets ( both healthy and environmentally sustainable) could be identified. This safe operating space is defined by sci-entific targets for intakes of specific food groups (e.g. 100 to 300 g/day of fruit) to optimize human health and scientific targets for sustainable food production to ensure a stable Earth system
Hey, WAKE UP!! You awake now? Okay, good.
To fully grasp the depth of the commission’s arrogance, it helps to have an interest in economics. There’s a famous essay titled I, Pencil that explains, simply and beautifully, why central planning doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because nobody knows how to make a pencil.
What? Of course we do!
No, not really. No single person knows, anyway. To make pencil, you have to know how to find and cut down the right trees for the wood. To cut down the trees, you need equipment, like chainsaws, which means you have to know how to make a chainsaw. To make the chainsaw, you need steel, which means you need to know how to find iron ore, mine the iron ore (which requires a whole ‘nuther set of equipment) and smelt it into steel. You need to know how to build the machines that stamp the steel parts of the chainsaw. You have to know how to deliver the chainsaws to where they’re needed. Once the trees are finally cut down, you have to know how to deliver them to a mill, build the equipment to cut and shape the wood, etc., etc.
That’s just a small fraction of what’s involved in acquiring the wood. Now toss in the same complexities for acquiring and shaping the graphite, the brass ring, the paint, and the rubber for the eraser. What you end up with is a countless number of people, skills, materials, equipment and locations involved – just to produce a lowly little pencil. No group of human beings, no matter how intelligent, could sit down and successfully plan and coordinate everything involved. That’s why central economic planning has failed miserably everywhere it’s been tried.
And yet the EAT-Lancet people believe they’ve figured out everything there is to know about producing and distributing food. They believe they’ve constructed a plan to feed the world and save the planet in the process. And they actually believe their plan would work … because:
The Anointed simply assume that because their intentions are good, the plan must be good.
This Commission does not underestimate the importance of its message or the urgency of the task it sets.
Gee, that’s very humble of you not to underestimate the importance of your own message.
We outline five specific and implementable strategies, which are supported by a strong evidence base.
So obviously, the Grand Plan will work … because you said it will work. Case closed.
And because The Bad is so very, very bad, we MUST ACT NOW, before it becomes even worse.
A global transformation of the food system is urgently needed … Data are sufficient and strong enough to warrant action, and delay will increase the likelihood of serious, even disastrous, consequences.
The Commission proposes boundaries that global food production should stay within to decrease the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic shifts in the Earth system.
Yup, if we don’t adopt the diet the EAT-Lancet committee recommends, we’re all doomed. And what does that diet look like? I’m sure you’ve seen descriptions in various media outlets, but I believe this graphic from their paper pretty much says it all:
Got that? To be healthy and save the planet, you need to limit yourself to 15 calories of beef or pork per day. Just over 60 calories per day of chicken. Eggs? Forget it … you get 19 calories per day. One egg is about 80 calories, so enjoy that one-fourth of an egg for breakfast tomorrow. But be sure load up on those healthy, healthy, healthy grains!
Are these dietary recommendations actually based on solid science? Of course not. Here’s a quote from the New York Post article:
John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.
That’s putting it mildly. Go ahead and read the (ahem) “science” in the full paper if you choose to torture yourself, but it’s the same old Willett nonsense, cherry-picking a few meaningless observational studies and pretending he’s engaging in actual science.
Interestingly, the Grand Plan often requires spending more of other people’s money, or restricting more of other people’s freedoms, or both.
I believe this section of the EAT-Lancet paper this says it all:
Environmental and societal health costs of food supply and consumption should be fully reflected in pricing by introducing taxes. As a result, food prices might increase. Therefore, where appropriate, social protection or safety nets (eg, increasing income through cash transfers) can be established to protect vulnerable populations, particularly children and women, while keeping trade open.
Domestic spending will need to increase for policy instruments supporting healthy diets from sustainable food systems.
Local authorities need powers to apply zoning regulations in low-income areas to restrict unhealthy food outlets.
Yup. They want to tax you on the food, then tax you again to subsidize people who can no longer afford the food because of the taxes.
The Anointed will, if they can, impose the Grand Plan on other people – for their own good, of course.
If you have a tendency to bang your head on your desk, you might want to don a helmet before reading this:
The full range of policy levers is likely to be needed. Faced with challenges, policy makers might initially implement soft policy interventions, such as consumer advice, information, education, or, in the case of food, labelling. These interventions assume that consumer actions will generate sufficient change and are slow in effect unless mass public interest in change exists. However, the scale of change to the food system is unlikely to be successful if left to the individual or the whim of consumer choice.
We won’t succeed if consumers are allowed to make their own choices, so we’ll need the full range of policy levers. That’s the polite (sort of) way of saying We need to force this on people for their own good.
By contrast, hard policy interventions include laws, fiscal measures, subsidies and penalties, trade reconfiguration, and other economic and structural measures. These interventions alter conditions in which the whole population exists. The type of interventions adopted is the prerogative of governments, people, and processes. However, countries and authorities should not restrict themselves to narrow measures or soft interventions. Too often policy remains at the soft end of the policy ladder.
Let me interpret that: too often, authorities don’t actually force people to make the choices we want them to make. So get out there and do some forcing!
You get the idea. A total of 37 “experts,” funded by a vegetarian billionaire who enjoys globe-trotting on her private jet, have decided they know how we should eat, and they know how food should be grown, distributed, taxed, subsidized and advertised. And if we don’t listen, they want governments to stop pussy-footing around with “soft” policy interventions and go in hard – to save the planet, of course.
You’d best be prepared to hold onto your steak with one hand and fight these people with the other.