The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health is backpedaling as industry leaders and scientists poke holes in its “planetary diet” released in mid-January that is supposed to improve human health and planet health.
Air Quality Extension Expert Frank Mitloehner of the University of California Davis joined Chip Flory on AgriTalk Monday to discuss EAT-Lancet and Green New Deal in more depth.
Recent studies and policy proposals are urging consumers to change their diets to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change. The findings have typically pointed a finger at animal agriculture products like meat, eggs and dairy for causing high emissions, despite scientific data proving otherwise.
Mitloehner’s commitment to join the conversation and speak up on behalf of agriculture has not gone unnoticed. Both EAT-Lancet and Green New Deal leaders have reached out to him in recent weeks. He said EAT-Lancet’s director of science basically “turned a 180” on the original claims made in the report.
“I was told in a private email that the diet was not intended to reduce climate change or save the environment,” Mitloehner said. “I made this information public by sharing it on my Twitter because it was such a profound reversal of everything I heard. To me, it was sensational. I could not believe what I read in that email.”
Although he was pleased that EAT-Lancet’s director of science was honest enough to say it in a personal email, Mitloehner said it wasn’t enough.
“If indeed they don't have environmental claims, they need to say that publicly,” he said. “But they’ve led the world to believe that their diet changes the environmental footprint of humanity and that is not the case.”
In addition to hearing from EAT-Lancet’s director of science, Mitloehner was also approached by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)’s staff asking about the role agriculture can play in order to reduce climate impacts. In early February, she helped lead the release of the Green New Deal’s plans to eliminate GHGs while revamping the U.S. economy.
“If these groups are reaching out to agricultural experts, you’ve got to pay attention to what they’re talking about now,” Flory said.
Mitloehner said he takes these opportunities seriously and believes it’s time farmers step up and share their story.
“Who in the world is a greater expert in sustainability than a farmer? Who knows more about the interplay of soils and plants and animals and climate? Who has a greater interest in the sustainability of their lands than farmers?” he asked.
He said it’s unacceptable that farmers allow themselves to take on the defensive position when they should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to sustainability.
“Sustainability is not a cuss word, it’s what you do every day,” Mitloehner said. “And if you don’t, you go bankrupt. It’s that simple.”
He believes the opportunity to engage with the public is greater than ever as more and more young people are interested in food – where it comes from, how it’s grown, how it’s prepared, how it’s eaten, how it’s wasted, etc.
“To me, the greatest experts in and around food are people in agriculture,” Mitloehner said. “So, let's assume that role.”
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