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Can Dietary Changes Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

23:22PM Feb 25, 2019
Chrysanthemum

Recent studies and policy proposals have been making calls to change human diets in an effort to lower greenhouse gas emission and curb climate change. The findings have typically pointed a finger at animal agriculture products like meat, eggs and dairy for causing high emissions, but that may not be the case.  

During an interview by AgriTalk, a discussion on the EAT-Lancet study and Green New Deal was held with Frank Mitloehner, professor and air quality extension specialist, University of California-Davis.

The EAT-Lancet study was positioned as helping both the health of humans and the environment by shifting people to what Mitloehner calls a “quasi vegan” diet. Through this suggested diet, people would eat on average no more than 7 grams or ¼ oz. of beef or pork per day and 1.5 eggs per week.

Many of Mitloehner’s nutritional research colleagues have discredited the study because it promotes a high carbohydrate and low fat diet that was proved to be bad for health nearly 20 years ago.

“In my opinion that is really the main problem as to what got us where we are,” Mitloehner says regarding human health. “Namely a nation with metabolic conditions.”

As for the environmental assessment of the EAT-Lancet study, Mitloehner didn’t see any differences across diets when eliminating animal products from the diet.

Mitloehner reached out the EAT-Lancet researchers who eventually explained that the diet was intended to save people’s health, not the planet. “That to me is a total departure of what I have been hearing from EAT-Lancet,” Mitloehner adds.

As for the Green New Deal, which makes proposals to have better sustainability practices in agriculture and other sectors of the economy to lower the carbon footprint in the U.S.

 Mitloehner says that farmers and ranchers need to be willing to work on sustainability and communicate about what they are doing.

“I think agriculture needs to do some soul searching,” Mitloehner says.

While people may cringe at the topic of sustainability, Mitloehner believes there is already no more sustainable sector of society than agriculture. “For some reason instead of endorsing it and owning it (sustainability) people in agriculture are fighting it and that is wrong. It is wrong.”

Going forward, Mitloehner thinks agriculture should lead the topic on sustainability rather than leaving it to politicians and an uninformed public.

Listen to Mitloehner’s comments in the following interview from AgriTalk:

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