According to a recently published historical study, the way humans produce and eat food must change radically to avoid millions of deaths and "disaster" damage on the planet.
The key to achieving these two goals is a dramatic change in the global diet, we must consume about half of sugar and red meat, and twice as many vegetables, fruits and nuts, concluded a consortium of 36 researchers in the medical journal The Lancet.
"We are in a disaster situation," one of the authors of the study, Professor Tim Lang, from the University of London and the policy leader of the EAT-Lancet Commission who compiled the 50-page study, told the AFP French news agency.
At present, nearly one billion people are starving and the other two billion are eating too much wrong food, leading to an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Unhealthy diet accounts for up to 11 million preventable premature deaths each year, according to the latest Global Disease Burden report.
At the same time, the global food system is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the biggest driver of loss of biodiversity and the main cause of the proliferation of deadly algae along the coast and inland waters.
Agriculture, which has changed almost half the surface of the earth, also consumes around 70 percent of the world's fresh water supply.
"To have the opportunity to feed 10 billion people in 2050 within planetary boundaries," the limit of Earth's ability to absorb human activity, "we must adopt a healthy diet, reduce leftovers, and invest in technologies that reduce environmental impacts," said co-author, Professor Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Research on the Impact of Climate Change.
"This is feasible, but no less than a global agricultural revolution will be needed," he told AFP.
The foundation of the "big food transformation" requested in this study is human food around 2500 calories per day.
"We don't say everyone has to eat the same way," Professor Lang said by telephone.
"But in general, especially in the rich world, that means a reduction in meat and dairy products, and a significant increase in plant consumption."
For most rich countries, and many other developing countries such as China and Brazil, this will represent a drastic reduction of five to ten times.
Livestock not only produce large amounts of methane that heats the planet, but they also cut large areas of forest that absorb carbon, especially in Brazil, every year to make room for them.
"In terms of climate, we know that coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel," said Professor Rockstrom. "On the food side, the equivalent is beef fed wheat."
At least five kilos of grain is needed to produce one kilo of meat, and once a piece of lamb or lamb is on a plate, about 30 percent will end up in a trash can.
Dairy products are also limited to about 250 g of pure milk, or the equivalent of cheese or yogurt, one day, and only one or two eggs per week.
At the same time, food requires an increase of more than 100% of beans such as peas and lentils, along with vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Grains are considered an unhealthy source of nutrition.
"We can no longer feed our population with healthy diets while balancing planetary resources," said The Lancet editor in chief, Dr. Richard Horton.
"For the first time in 200,000 years of human history, we are very out of sync with planet and nature."
The report produced strong reactions from the livestock and milk industry, and several experts.
"It is very extreme to create maximum attention, but we must be more responsible for making serious dietary recommendations," said Alexander Anton, secretary general of the European Dairy Association, and noted that dairy products were "full" of nutrients and vitamins.
Christopher Snowdon, from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) in London, said the report "revealed the full agenda of activists."
"We expect these attacks," said Professor Lang.
"But the same food companies that reject these findings realize that they may not have a future if they don't adapt," he said.
"The question is: do we expect one to happen, or do we start planning it now?"
Some multinational companies respond positively, albeit cautiously, to this study.
"We need the government to help accelerate change by aligning national diet guidelines with healthy and sustainable requirements, and by reusing agricultural subsidies," the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said in a statement.
By David Twomey
Original article (in English)