Last month an extraordinarily well-funded and slick road show hit 35 major cities around the world promising to save the planet. The EAT-Lancet Commission had come to town – big time. The roll-out of the EAT-Lancet diet comprises some 40 prominent scientists presided over by a beauteous 40-year old founder from Norway Gunhild Stordalen, a physician herself, a longstanding environmental activist, married to billionaire Norwegian hotelier and property developer, Petter Stordalen.
Dr. Gunhild Stordalen, founder of the EAT-Lancet Diet with husband Petter in Greece
The report entitled “EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems” is a remarkable initiative with an impressive pedigree; 3-years in the making involving the EAT Foundation, leading medical publication The Lancet, a century-old medical and philanthropic foundation – the Welcome Trust, along with active co-operation from the World Economic Forum at Davos and over 40 of its member corporations, plus UN endorsement.
The EAT-Lancet diet, we are being told, gives us the strategy to feed the 10 billion of us that will inhabit the Earth by 2050 with a healthy diet that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, saves half the planet for nature, halves food waste and achieves all the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In other words, we won’t starve, we will all be healthier, global warming will be solved, the rain forest and habitat are restored, we don’t kill off most of our our fellow mammals, and we get to clean up the air and the oceans too.
We can have all this – just so long we eat a lot less meat, reduce dairy, while getting the bulk of our protein from plant sources, mainly cereals.
Hallelujah! At long last… the politicians and the Big Business are listening to us and they’re going to do something…. We all know Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Food et al. are a big part of the problem. Finally, even they are now seeing sense. If not vegan or vegetarian, any fool can see that eating less meat is going to do a lot to clean up the mess we’re in. Right?
Well, yes and no…
Predictably the tabloids, climate-deniers, Trumpists, in fact all those Hilary was foolish enough to have described publicly as “deplorables” are having a field day. A good-looking blonde 40 year old Scandinavian MD, wealthy in her own right and married to a billionaire, who did a few modelling gigs at university, and who espouses green causes telling us carnivores what to do? That’s catnip in all the best deplorable circles.
“Hypocrite!”, they shreik on line.
“Billionaire ex-model wants to tax your hamburger!”, they chorus.
Dr. Gunhild does appear to enjoy her wealth and might have avoided some of this stuff were she not in the habit of putting pictures of herself and her husband Petter on social media, jetting around the world in their US$26m Bombardier private jet, sunbathing in Mexico, relaxing in Greece, hugging a tree in Costa Rica, meditating in Antibes, posing by a pool in St. Tropez and then lecturing people about not eating meat against the Manhattan skyline. Clearly publicity isn’t a problem for the couple, given that they flew in 230 people back in 2010 for their marriage in Morocco for a 3-day party with the ceremony performed by the very reverend Sir Bob Geldof, no less.
Less well known is that Dr Gunhild suffers from systemic scleroderma, which is incurable and often fatal. For all we know, she may be a lady in a hurry, wanting to achieve her lifework and enjoy life to the full in the time left to her. For all we know, the couple may have more than offset the carbon footprint of their peregrinations already. We cannot say, we don’t know.
More sober critics wonder at the carbon footprint of all this and, more to the point, flying nearly 40 scientist plus spouses to slap-up bashes in 35 cities around the world. You would have thought perhaps these ecologically-minded scientists might also have given a thought to this.
Point is, if they can achieve even a fraction of what what’s intended, who gives a witch’s whatnot if the Stordalens enjoy the celeb life?
More of a concern perhaps, is the company they keep.
Yes, for the first time we actually have a coordinated strategy that appears to be a serious attempt to address the planet’s dietary and ecological problems, problems which we humans created. Given EAT-Lancet has the active support of some of the largest corporations in the world as well as major international organisations, including UN agencies, there is a chance it could work.
The question is, will it?
Broadly speaking the scientific consensus is – yes, it could. Such a program, tweaked a bit, can reduce GHG emissions to currently acceptable levels, and the satisfy the rest of the program, but we have to act fast before we reach the global warming tipping point.
But hang on, haven’t we been here before, with the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 70s? Wasn’t that when Big Ag n’ Chem got farmers in South America, India and Southeast Asia to adopt hybrid seeds, artificial fertilisers, insecticides and chemical sprays? Aren’t we now experiencing terrible droughts, struggling to make good on massive land degradation, loss of biodiversity and bankrupted farmers – all caused by the industrialised agriculture we call the Green Revolution?
Right now informed criticism of the EAT-Lancet program comes in three main areas.
First: the diet is not quite as healthy as claimed. Protein from plant is nowhere near as efficient as protein from animal sources. Certain important nutrients would be significantly lacking from the proposed EAT-Lancet diet. Most notably retinol, Vitamins B12, D and K2 along with minerals sodium, calcium, potassium and iron. Such a diet would be bad for diabetics. The over-reliance on carbs, cereals and plant-based oils with the exception of olive oil is questionable if not dangerous (visit online Dr. Zoe Harcombe, EAT-Lancet diet).
Second: for the diet to be widely adopted and in time to make a difference the EAT-Lancet Commissioners call for state action through taxation and regulation to encourage us to adopt the diet. That is a big worry (see below).
Third: The scientists who put together the EAT-Lancet are all proponents of the various parts of the diet. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, unless they are paid consultants to the corporations which stand to benefit massively from the program, and no doubt quite a few of them are compromised in that way. For the full report visit online: Would you Eat-Lancet? Optimum Nutrition.
This is the big question mark hanging over it all….
Of the 40 or so companies involved in this initiative, the majority of them, some of the biggest corporations in the world, have criminal convictions, mainly for price fixing, rigging or ignoring research, as well as bribery and corruption and/or civil suits having been brought against them.
If modern agriculture is broken and unsustainable, it is because of them. They make their money out of palm oil, sugar, genetically modified crops, processed foods, industrialised animal husbandry, chemical insecticides and fertilisers. They are the ones who maintain massive political lobbying machines and make large political donations so as to be virtually unaccountable.
A look at the pie chart (see below) shows that the companies supporting this initiative have a vested interest in at least 75% of this particular pie and they are none of them are known for a natural approach to diet or agriculture.
How should we now trust the organisations and people, who have never failed to put their own interests first? Especially now that the profits to be made are so astronomical and the law itself is to be co-opted to compel or favour use of their goods and services?
Here they all are by industrial sector [* incicates criminal and/or civil conviction (s)]:
The Proponents: Agriculture, Bio-Tech, Chemicals, Food & Pharma
Arla (Den.), *BASF (Ger.), *Bayer (Ger.), Buhler (Swiss), *Cargill (US), Cermaq (Jpn), *CP Group (Thai), *Danone (Fr.), DSM (Neds), *DuPont (US), *Evonik (GER.), Ferrero (Ital.), Firmenich (Swiss), Friesland Campino (Neds), *Givaudan(Roche, Swiss), *Intl.Flavors & Fragrances (US), KDD (Kuwait), Kellogg’s (US), *Nestle (Swiss), Olam(S’pr), *Pepsico(US), Protix (Neds), *Sigma (US), *Solvay (Belg.), *Sonae (Port.), *Symrise (Ger.),*Syngenta(Swiss), Unilever UK/Neds), *Yara (Nor.)
The Enablers: Consultants, Financial, PR & Tech.
*Baker McKenzie(US), Boston Consulting Gp.(US), *Deloitte(UK), *Edelman PR (US), ERM(UK), *Google(US), Ikea (Swed.), *Rabobank(Neds)
That is 21 or 60% of the 36 corporations listed, who support and expect to benefit from EAT-Lancet program, who have fallen foul of the law.
That does not mean we should not adopt something like the EAT-Lancet. We probably must do something of the sort and quickly. What it does mean is much closer scrutiny of this diet is required before being adopted and – above all, utmost rigour consistently applied to ensure these corporate titans are kept on the straight and narrow. It means, that when they transgress their CEOs and their chairmen face jail time, alongside their line management, that their company face fines so large that total redress can be made and their shareholders suffer significant financial pain, sufficient for them to demand compliance with the law.
Anything less, and it will not go well for us.