Health & FitnessPublic Health

The Eatwell Guide & The Environment


* A paper was recently published, which claimed that adherence to the UK ‘Eatwell’ Guide (EWG) could reduce your risk of dying early and lower your environmental footprint.

* This note looks at the environmental footprint claim. The main claim in the abstract of the paper was that, of the nine 'Eatwell' recommendations, achieving the ≤ 70 grams a day of red and processed meat recommendation “was associated with the largest decrease in environmental footprints."

* Details behind the claim were difficult to trace. A supplemental file to the EWG paper estimated calculations for Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and Water Footprint (WF) for 173 food sub-groups.

* Closer examination of the sub-groups revealed that GHG emission estimates put lamb as the worst food and sugar/sugar confectionery as the best. Manufactured foods fared better than homemade. The most nutritious foods were deemed worst for the planet and vice versa.

* Closer examination of the assumptions behind these estimations revealed three fundamental issues:

- Methane and nitrous oxide are assumed to be tens and hundreds (respectively) of times worse than CO2 in the GHG emission estimates. Ruminants are blamed for methane and agriculture generally is blamed for nitrous oxide.

- We are indebted to Frank M. Mitloehner for the exposé that these estimates absolutely don't compare like with like. While everything – from birth to death – is counted for animal foods, barely anything is counted for plant foods.

- It is always assumed that plants are fed to animals. Animals can never win in this game, because the plant emissions are counted in the animal numbers before the animal emissions even start to be reviewed.

* There is a global food agenda, becoming increasingly sinister, which we need to wise up to. Health messages attacking meat, eggs and dairy have not achieved the desired plant-based global diet. Environmental messages are now being added in to achieve this goal and, I think, will soon replace health as the key rationale for the plant-based diet. Human and planet health requires ruminants building and protecting topsoil and eco systems, but this does not suit the agrichemical and big food agenda.

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