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Sustainable diet

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Title: Sustainable diet  
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Subject: Environmental issues with agriculture, Mediterranean diet, List of nutrition guides
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Sustainable diet

Sustainable diets are eating patterns based on looking at the impact that food consumption has on planetary resources and attempting to create healthy eating patterns that can promote the needs of the environment, society, and the economy. This growing body of research is recognised by a variety of international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

With global demands for food changing due to a growing populations and increased consumption of animal protein, current production methods are contributing to severe environmental problems such as decline of biodiversity and a significant contribution to the process of global warming.

Addressing consumption patterns, food waste, and intensive methods of agricultural production is seen as a major way of reducing environmental impact in the long-run.

The problems of consumption

Some argue from an environmental perspective[1][2] that the developed world needs to moderate its appetite for animal meat. Rearing animal protein food uses significantly more water, land, and energy than that of fruit and vegetables.[3][4][5] For example, producing one kilo of pork can create over 31 times as much carbon dioxide as the same amount of weight of potatoes.[6] European food consumption and production is estimated to account for 20-30% of the European Union's total environmental impact.[7]

Some believe that understanding the determinants, factors, and processes that comprise a sustainable diet is increasingly important in an era of economic growth, rising incomes, climate change, and dietary transitions. Five major determinants of sustainable diets are considered to be agricultural, health, sociocultural, environmental, and socioeconomic, each of which have complex inter-relations.[8]

Definition of a sustainable diet

In 2010, the FAO and Bioversity International defined a sustainable diet as:

those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.[9]

Modern sustainable diets

Some so-called "sustainable" diets mostly concentrate on issues to do with Low Carbon Diets which are structured to reduce the impact of global warming (e.g., Bon Appétit Management Company's, Eat Low Carbon Diet).

Others also focus on broader environmental factors, as well as social and economic challenges (e.g., WWF's LiveWell for LIFE,[10] and the Barilla Group's "Centre for Food Nutrition" model).

Other regionalised diets include the Mediterranean diet which was used as a basis in research published in 2014 to outline an approach to develop metrics and guidelines to measure the sustainability of diets in a way that useful to inform stakeholders, measure change and aid decision-making processes at regional and national scales.[11]

The Nordic diet is also considered sustainable as it places a heavy emphasis on local foods.[12] Professor Henrik Saxe of Copenhagen University's, OPUS Centre claims that GHG produced could be 27-percent lower in these emission in comparison with the average Danish diet.

Policy response in Europe

An important contribution to this debate is the European Commission's Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. Amongst other things, this broad policy review looks at "incentives for healthier and more sustainable production and consumption of food and to halve the disposal of edible food waste in the EU by 2020."

As part of this new policy, a public consultation on the "Sustainability of the Food System" was launched in the summer of 2013, asking stakeholders for their opinion on how the food system must be adapted. This will go on to form a Communication on Sustainable Food by the European Commission. The European Parliament's 766 MEPs and the Member States of the Council will debate this Communication and makes, changes and vote on approval.

The indicative timeline for the consultation is as follows:

  • July–1 October 2013: Consultation Sustainability of the Food System
  • December 2013: Impact Assessment
  • January 2014: EC Communication on Sustainable Food published
  • March 2014: Environment Council will discuss the proposal?
  • Spring 2014: European Parliament reaction
  • June 2014: Environment Council decides on legislative proposals?
  • 2015: New legislation and policy recommendations enter into effect

Common sustainable diets

See also


  1. ^ (See: Livestock's Long Shadow)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Understanding Sustainable Diets
  9. ^ FAO. 2012. Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action. [Accessed 13 January 2013]
  10. ^ The Guardian - The Livewell diet: it's cheap, it's nutritious and it could help save the planet.
  11. ^ Sustainability and Food & Nutrition Security: A Vulnerability Assessment Framework for the Mediterranean Region. Paolo Prosperi, Thomas Allen, Martine Padilla, Iuri Peri, Bruce Cogill DOI: 10.1177/2158244014539169Published 12 June 2014
  12. ^ "What is the Nordic Diet?" Retrieved 16 February 2015
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