According to the recently released report Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, reducing the consumption of animal products (especially read meat) and increase consumption of food such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts, would benefit not only human health but also the climate and the environment. It would also increase the likelihood of attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG:s).
Goal number 14 is about conserving and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. For the Baltic Sea, this goal cannot be achieved without further reducing eutrophication.
– But it is not obvious how changes in our diets could affect eutrophication, because of the complex the links between production, trade, and consumption, says Baltic Eye researcher Michelle McCrackin.
Producing and consuming animal products requires more resources (water, fossil fuels, nitrogen and phosphorus) per amount of protein or calories compared with the production of plant-based food. To be most effective, however, the shift from animal to plant proteins must take place on a global scale.
– The negative consequences of production remain in the region even though we export the end products. Even if we eat less meat in the Baltic Sea Region, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the negative impact of agriculture on the Baltic Sea will be reduced, Michelle McCrackin.
Choosing less ham from Parma will not affect the Baltic Sea, she says. Neither will reducing our consumption of products from the Baltic Sea region if the farmers export them to other regions.
– But if eating less also means fewer animals in the region, the risk for nutrient leakage could be reduced, says Michelle McCrackin.
Her fellow researcher at Baltic Eye, Annika Svanbäck, stresses another important factor, namely how the food is produced.
– The environmental impact of animal production varies widely between regions, production systems, and types of products. It is important to remember that the risk of nutrient leakage also depends on local conditions, she says.