The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had released a new report, Bending the Curve: The Restorative Power of Planet-Based Diets, exploring how a global shift toward PLANET-based diets, high in human-health benefits and low in environmental impacts, can restore nature and improve health. A supplement to this report, Why we need to shift to a Planet-Based Diet in the US (and how we can get there, together), discusses the specifics of a PLANET-based diet in the US—what it could look like, what impacts it would have, and what other actions are needed to transform our food system.
The report is a ground-breaking exploration of the implications of current diets in 147 countries, including the US, and it examines projected environmental impacts if diets shifted to align with each country’s National Dietary Guidelines (NDG) and other current popular dietary patterns. This modeling exercise suggests that there would be huge benefits both for human and planetary health if current consumption patterns are altered on a large scale. For the US, transitioning to a planet-based diet could improve health outcomes, help scale back agriculture’s impact on freshwater, protect biodiversity by avoiding conversion of habitat like grasslands to cropland, and significantly decrease our diet-related greenhouse gas emissions.
“The US food system is one of the most important levers we have for solving climate and biodiversity crises, and what we eat and how much we consume matters. Even simple changes to our diets, like eating in line with National Dietary Guidelines, would take us a long way toward positive outcomes for both human health and the environment. And if you can combine these efforts with others—a shift to regenerative and resilient agricultural systems, a less wasteful supply chain, and policies that incentivize producing food with human nutrition and planetary-health at the forefront—we will see positive impacts for people and planet at a global scale.” -Melissa D. Ho, Senior Vice President, Freshwater and Food, World Wildlife Fund
There is no one-size-fits-all diet, and local context and culture matter. With more than 700 million people still hungry or malnourished in the world (and rising), there are places where we need to increase and improve our supply of and access to quality nutrition, which will require improving the efficiency and performance of all food production systems globally. But there is a paradox of hunger and malnutrition in America too. Pre-pandemic, around 11 percent of Americans — including more than 10 million children — were facing food insecurity. As unemployment and poverty climb in the face of COVID-19, in 2020 that number could rise to more than 54 million people, including 18 million children. And that hunger is happening while nearly 40 percent of our food supply is lost or wasted across the value chain. We must utilize more of what we grow to ensure all people are fed, ensure healthy options are accessible, and that our farmers are kept whole in the process.
“Taking a look at our food system today and seeing hunger, inequity, and environmental devastation, you might think it’s simply impossible to feed 8-10 billion people without destroying the planet. But that’s not the case; in fact, the opposite is true. Not only can we feed the entire population of Earth, we can do it in a way that improves human health globally and allows nature to recover from the damage we’ve caused. A global shift in diets to prioritize nutrition hand-in-hand with sustainability—something that will look different in every country—has the potential reverse biodiversity loss, combat climate change, and save human lives.” -Brent Loken, Global Food Lead Scientist, World Wildlife Fund