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WWF study: This is what the future tastes like

Eating habits are often seen as a personal matter. However, individual decisions about what ends up on our plates have a major impact on our planet. A recent study conducted by the environmental organization WWF together with corsus - corporate sustainability GmbH illustrates this.

The impact our food has on the environment is often underestimated. Yet food is one of the biggest challenges facing our planet.

  • Over a third of the Earth's habitable land is used for agriculture.
  • 75% of this is used for the production of meat and other animal-based foods.
  • 90% of animal feed is grown on arable land.
  • 52% of the world's arable land is degraded or threatened by erosion, salinization, pollution and sealing.
  • 70% of biodiversity loss and 80% of deforestation is due to agricultural use.
  • 21-37% of total global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by our diet.

Our diet threatens the planet and our health

These developments mean that the Earth's ecological limits are being exceeded and the stability of global ecosystems (and therefore our livelihoods) are at risk. However, our eating habits are not only bad for the environment, but also for our health. On the one hand, diet-related diseases are on the rise, while on the other, one in eleven people worldwide still suffers from hunger. Since last year, another factor has also increasingly come into focus: the increased transmission of pathogens from animals to humans (zoonoses). Covid-19 is no exception here. Of the infectious diseases known today, 60% are zoonoses (e.g. HIV, SARS, Ebola). The incidence of such pathogens is boosted by the loss of biodiversity.

According to the WWF, it is therefore all the more important to build stable food systems that are healthy for people and the planet. This requires a more sustainable distribution of food and use of arable land. For example, a flexitarian (= reduction in meat consumption) diet can already reduce land use by 18%, a vegetarian diet can save 46% and a vegan diet can even save around 50%.

The food situation in Germany

Climate change is also making itself felt in Germany. Crop failures due to above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall are becoming more frequent. Currently, the consumption of animal products in Germany is responsible for 70% of food-related greenhouse gas emissions. According to the study, this figure could be reduced by 27% if only meat consumption were halved. A change in diet would therefore make a significant contribution to climate protection and the preservation of biodiversity. In our blog post Vegan nutrition: Do I even make a difference as an individual? you can read more on this topic.

Health would also benefit from a change in diet. According to a WWF study, people in Germany eat too many calories, too much meat and cheese and too few vegetables (especially green vegetables).

"Planetary Health Diet": This is how the future eats

In the EAT-Lancet Commission, 37 experts from 16 different countries have defined the guidelines for a nutritional system that ensures both our health and the health of the planet. The "Planetary Health Diet" includes halving the global consumption of red meat and sugar and doubling the consumption of fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses. Protein should mainly be obtained from plant-based foods.

You can read more about the "Planetary Health Diet" here.

WWF Germany. How the future tastes: The culinary compass for a healthy planet. March 2021