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How diet became the latest front in the culture wars

The argument put forward by the EAT-Lancet report is that eating plant-based foods will lower the incidences of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, enable environmentally helpful use of land, and reduce carbon emissions.

ANDREW ANTHONY: ‘A plethora of academic reports concerning food consumption and production have been published in recent years. The latest and arguably the most far-reaching is Food in the Anthropocene: the Eat-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, which was conducted over three years by 37 senior scientists from around the world and published earlier this year.

To combat the world’s growing demand for food – there will be 10 billion people to feed by 2050 – we need to cut meat almost entirely out of our diet, say the authors of the report. The argument they put forward is that eating more plant-based foods will lower the incidences of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, enable more environmentally helpful use of land and reduce carbon emissions…

The response has been mixed. In mainstream food science, the reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive, with leading figures noting the report’s findings are in broad agreement with nearly all previous large-scale studies… The National Farmers’ Union argued that the Eat-Lancet Commission report was a global report that neglected local differences…

Then the official-sounding European Food Agency protested that the report would “result in an anti-livestock narrative”. The EFA is, in fact, an independent agricultural news agency located in Italy. But a piece it ran by Frédéric Leroy, professor of food science and biotechnology at the University of Brussels, and Martin Cohen, a research fellow in philosophy, gained a lot of attention on social media.

“Isn’t it remarkable,” wrote Leroy and Cohen, “how meat, symbolising health and vitality since millennia, is now often depicted as detrimental to our bodies, the animals and the planet? Why exactly is the minoritarian discourse of vegetarianism and veganism currently all over the media?” They spoke of “Big Ag” and a corporate conspiracy to push a vegan agenda for profit…

But how do lay people make sense of the arguments? Is this like climate change, where a majority of scientists agree on the problem and a vociferous minority maintain that it’s been overstated? Or is this just another battlefield in the culture wars – the diet wars – in which politics determine perspective?’ SOURCE…

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