Scientists say our diets must evolve. Canada could lead the way.
Adding a vice to a culture is always easier than removing it. Consider, as examples, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and the hamburger. Despite all we know about the harm we do to ourselves and others by indulging in these vices, we persist in them.
Now, however, Canada is facing serious pressure to scale back on one of those vices — the hamburger and the whole spectrum of red meat. We can expect pushback from beef producers in Alberta and elsewhere, but we may also find powerful support from most Canadian farmers. That’s because Canadian agriculture can play a decisive part in improving global health, saving lives, and slowing climate change — while enriching our farmers.
The pressure comes from a new report by the EAT-Lancet “Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems,” published in the British medical journal The Lancet. Titled Food in the Anthropocene, the commission report argues that we’ve been digging our own graves with our unsustainable gluttony, and only making matters worse for the climate and the environment.
Right now, the report says, “more than 820 million people have insufficient food and many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and morbidity.” And to produce this dreadful food we are damaging or destroying local ecosystems and threatening the Earth system itself.
By 2050, 10 billion of us will be on the planet, enduring an ever-increasing burden of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease, while greenhouse-gas emissions increase and agricultural production suffers from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and scarcity of clean water. Switching to healthy diets would have dramatic benefits, starting with the saving of about 11 million lives a year. That’s 30,000 people a day, or 1,255 an hour.
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