"The great transformation of food," which fundamentally changes what we eat and how we produce food, is urgently needed to feed the world's 10 billion by 2050, a new report said.
Why it mattersHuman diet, health and the environment are inextricably linked, but current diets push Earth's resources across borders.
"Human diets inextricably link health and environmental sustainability and have the potential to nurture both. However, current diets push the Earth beyond the limits of its planet, while causing ill health, "the report published on January 16 in the medical journal Lancet said.
Released by the EAT-Lancet Commission in Stockholm, she calls for a drastically different eating pattern to see the world consumption of red meat and sugar in half, while the consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes will double.
The findings of the study provide the first scientific objectives for healthy eating in terms of the planet's food production limitations.
The lack of scientifically grounded goals is what prevents the creation of food systems that work within the limits of the planet, say the authors of the report.
"The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and it is now seriously wrong," said Professor Tim Lang of London University, UK.
With regard to human health and nutrition, this is evident in global levels of obesity and chronic diseases which now offset the benefits of increased food production, which otherwise contributes to reducing hunger, and child and infant mortality.
Worldwide, diets are now high in calories, sugar, refined starches and foods of animal origin and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fish.
Meanwhile, the planet can not continue to maintain these diets and food production for current diets "goes beyond the limits of the planet, stimulates climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution caused by excessive use of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers, and unsustainable changes in water land use, "the report says.
The optimal diet it promotes would be mainly herbal foods with small amounts of animal feed, refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars as well as unsaturated, not saturated fats.
Such a diet "is flexible enough to adapt to food crops around the world," says the lead author of the report.
But this will require unprecedented global co-operation to achieve this, "said co-chair of research commissioner Johann Roxtrome, a professor at Stockholm University.
"Nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution," he said.
"The good news is that it is not only feasible, but we have growing evidence that it can be achieved through sustainable intensification, which is beneficial to both farmers and consumers and the planet."
The Commission proposes five strategies for adapting what people eat and how to produce food.
One can include policies that encourage people to choose a healthy diet while improving food availability and encouraging purchasing from sustainable sources.
The key to agriculture is to shift away from the production of large crops to the production of diverse crops rich in nutrients, the report said.
"Global agricultural policies must encourage producers to grow food, plant foods, develop programs that support a variety of production systems, and increase funding for research into ways to increase nutrition and sustainability," he said.
Sustainable agricultural intensification, consideration of local conditions and appropriate agricultural practices and better management of land and ocean use will also be crucial.
Meanwhile, food waste has to be "at least half", the report said. At present, most global food losses occur in low to medium income countries due to poor harvest planning, lack of access to markets and poor storage and processing infrastructure.
The EAT-Lancet Commission is one of several reports on nutrition published by The Lancet in 2019. The next panel, the Global Syndicate of Obesity, Malnutrition and Climate Change, will be released later this month.