ALERT – Specialists, gathered together by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, warn about the excesses of the global food system. According to them, the multinationals in the area – the “Big Food” – aggravate global warming, undernourishment and obesity in the world. They call for a middle management, as is the case with multinational tobacco companies.
The Lancet is committed to better oversight of the global food system. After three years of investigation, a collective of the British scientific journal draws a parallel between climate change, undernourishment and obesity and accuses multinational food companies of making the situation worse.
“These three phenomena interact,” said the scientists, who came from the University of Auckland (New Zealand), George Washington University (USA) and the NGO World Obesity Federation. “The food system is not only responsible for pandemics of obesity and undernutrition, but also generates 25 to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.” Livestock breeding is particularly pointed.
Another interaction: “undernutrition and obesity are likely to be significantly aggravated by climate change,” experts predict. Extreme weather events, such as droughts, could both deprive some populations of food and raise the price of fruits and vegetables, which would increase the consumption of industrial foods.
The accusations are about “profit-driven multinationals of food and drink” – called “Big Food” – and more broadly about our choice of company model. Because these three evils “have common drivers”, according to these 43 experts from 14 countries: “powerful commercial interests”, but also “an insufficient political response and a lack of mobilization of the civil society”.
The need for a comprehensive policy response
“Over the past 20 years, obesity, undernutrition and climate change have been considered separately and the slowness of policy responses is unacceptable,” the report says. It calls for a global response that combines public health policies (recommendations for healthy diets, promotion of physical activity …) and fiscal and fiscal policies (financing of sustainable production methods, taxes to bring down the consumption of red meat or promote non-motorized transport …).
Why tackle here the car? “Our transport systems dominated by (her) favor a sedentary lifestyle (with too little physical activity, ed) while generating 14 to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions,” say the scientists.
A frame of “Big Food” on the model of the fight against smoking
For the report’s authors, food multinationals should be regulated in the same way as tobacco companies. They propose the creation of a “Framework Convention on Food Systems” modeled on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (CCLA). This text, adopted in 2003 by the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to reduce tobacco consumption but also to fight against the lobbying of this industry to limit its influence on public policies.
“In 2016-17, the US sweet drinks sector spent $ 50 million on lobbying to counter measures to reduce soda consumption,” the report said. “Food is obviously different from tobacco, since it is essential for life, but it is not the case for food that is bad for one’s health,” argues one of the authors, Professor William H. Dietz. “The commonalities (between the junk food industry and the tobacco industry) are the damage they cause and the behavior of companies that benefit from it,” he adds.
In a first study on the link between diet and environment, published January 17, The Lancet also recommended halving world consumption of red meat and sugar and doubling that of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
According to WHO, 1.9 billion adults worldwide are overweight, of whom 650 million are obese, which is a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. At the same time, 462 million adults are underweight.