Scientists who formally advise the European Commission on food and agriculture policy have told the Commission this week that Europeans should eat “as little animal products as possible” to reduce the impact of climate change.
The comment was made by Professor Erik Mathijs, chair of the Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) Working Group, upon the publication this week of SAPEA’s latest report, called Towards Sustainable Food Consumption.
The report, requested by the European Commission to support the revision of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy – the flagship agri-food initiative of the current Commission designed to make food systems more sustainable and healthy – makes clear that there is an urgent need to shift to plant-based diets to reduce the bloc’s environmental impact.
The report says that reducing animal product consumption is “the key mitigation option” to combat environmental impacts such as climate change and biodiversity loss. It also emphasises the importance of plant-based diets in combating obesity and noncommunicable diseases.
“As an organisation dedicated to raising awareness about the positive impact of plant-based diets, we applaud the report by SAPEA. It is encouraging to see the acknowledgment of plant-based diets as a crucial solution to some of our most pressing problems,” said Lucia Hortelano, EU Policy Manager at ProVeg, said.
The report further highlights the importance of policy interventions, including disruptive measures like taxes, bans, and product reformulations, to drive behaviour change and create food environments that prioritise healthy and sustainable choices.
ProVeg believes that such policy measures can play a crucial role in accelerating the transition to plant-based diets and making them more accessible to all. Equally, ProVeg pushes for support for farmers to transition towards more sustainable food systems.
Plant-based vs organic
SAPEA notes that animal-sourced foods in general have substantially higher environmental impacts compared to plant-based foods, especially in terms of climate change, both per kilogram of food and in total.
It states that the emissions-reduction potential of switching towards more plant-based diets is far greater than that of a switch to organic foods. The report gives the example of a modelling study for Italian school meals (based on life-cycle analysis) which found that the emissions reductions potential of procuring 100% organic foods is in the order of 11%–15%, while a switch to vegetarian meals results in a 20%–32% decrease ((Modelling, assessing, and ranking public procurement options for a climate-friendly catering service | SpringerLink))).
“We really hope the European Commission takes this advice from their scientific advisors seriously and implements respective policy measures to help more Europeans shift to plant-based diets,” Hortelano said.
Notes to Editors
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About ProVeg International
ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultivated alternatives.
ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.
ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award. ProVeg also has Observer Status at the IPCC.