Lack of food diversity, a leading cause of death – UN

Ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit due in September, the Programme Manager of the United Nations Environment Programme, James Lomax, has said low dietary diversity in food globally has become a ‘primary driver of death’.

Lomax, who was speaking on whether the earth could grow enough food to sustain a projected population of 10 billion humans by 2050, revealed that the earth had enough food to feed the planet but wastage and dietary habits were posing grave threats.

In an interview published on the UNEP website, he said, “The world already produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet. But, as a recent UNEP report found, over 17 per cent of food is wasted. Food waste accounts for up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“It can occur at the consumer end, where food is thrown away, or as post-harvest loss in storage, transport, packaging, or other stages before food reaches the table. Dietary habits represent another intervention area.”

According to him, over the past 50 years, diets have become increasingly homogenous, dominated by crops that are rich in energy but poor in macronutrients.

Lomax said, “Of the thousands of plants and animals used for food in the past, less than 200 currently contribute to global food supplies and just nine crops account for almost 70 per cent of all crop production.

“In many cases, particularly in developing countries, people do not receive the full range of nutrients essential to human health. In fact, low dietary diversity has surpassed caloric insufficiency as the primary driver of death.”

He called for reduced food waste and shifting dietary patterns to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from the food system by as much as 50 per cent.

A report by the EAT-Lancet Commission had said that diets with a diversity of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal source foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, limited amounts of refined grains, highly-processed foods and added sugars, could prevent between 19 and 24 per cent of all adult deaths each year.