EAT-Lancet Meets Rev. Malthus

The rhetoric for plant-based diets has ratcheted up to a shrill pitch in the EAT-Lancet report, released with much fanfare a couple of weeks ago. The document is the result of “more than two years of collaboration between thirty-seven ‘experts’ from sixteen countries,” lots of frowny faces telling us that we need to eat lentils because the earth is getting warmer and we are running out of everything.

EAT-Lancet dietFor example, Professor Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research & Stockholm Resilience Centre looks very stern as he heaps shame on the millions of planetary eaters: “Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience. It constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.”

Sponsors of the EAT-Lancet study include the Wellcome Trust (with strong Seventh Day Adventist leanings), the EAT Foundation of Sweden (founded by Gunhild Stordalen, who recently announced on Instagram that she was going to “try” a plant-based diet for one month) and almost forty international companies including Cargill, Kelloggs‘s, Nestles, Pepsico, Danone and Unilever. So it’s no surprise that the new planet-saving diet is plant-based, high in grains and industrial seed oils. Eaters are allowed fourteen grams (less than one tablespoon) of red meat per day and thirteen grams of egg, a regimen to be “encouraged” with taxes, bans and regulations.

Let’s step back and see what’s really going on here. Warnings that the world was not producing enough food to keep up with population growth began with the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus in his famous book, Essay on the Principle of Population as it affects the Future Improvement of Society, published in 1798. Malthus predicted that the world would run out of food because the population was increasing much faster than the food supply—a premise some people used to argue against sending relief to the Irish during the potato famine, since that would just delay the day when food for the fecund Irish would run out.

Of course, the dire predictions of Rev. Malthus never happened—for many reasons, including new sources of energy (In Malthus’s day, Europe was facing an energy crisis in the form of a wood shortage), the opening up of new land for food production in Australia, the U.S. and Argentina, improvements in transportation and manufacturing innovations.

In the late 1960s, Paul Erhlich took up the Malthusian message with his book The Population Bomb, co-published with the Sierra Club. Erhlich convinced a lot of college students not to breed by predicting that one hundred to two hundred million people would be starving in the next ten years, that mass famines would sweep England leading to the country’s demise, and that ecological destruction would devastate the planet causing the collapse of civilization.


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At the first Earth Day in 1970, Harvard biologist Dr. George Wald predicted that civilization would end within fifteen or thirty years. In a 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness, Paul Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University predicted, “By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

Other predictions from 1970: “In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution” (Life Magazine, January 1970); by the year 2000, there won’t be any more oil (ecologist Kenneth Watts); and childbearing will be “a punishable crime against society unless parents hold a government license” (David Brower, executive director of the Sierra Club).

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A few years later the Club of Rome took up the crusade with the publication of The Limits to Growth, predicting that oil supplies would run out by the year 1992. Then came Al Gore whose 2006 documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, warned that mankind’s activities were causing global warming, which would result in sea levels rising twenty feet, catastrophic hurricanes, massive flooding in India and China, the extinction of polar bears and the further desiccation in the region south of the Sahara desert, in short a true planetary emergency unless we took steps to “cut back greenhouse gases.”

Of course, none of these dire predictions has happened. Food production has kept up with population growth, even in India, which has become an exporter of agricultural products. Air quality is improving, especially in big cities. Due to new discoveries and improved technology, there is now too much oil on the market. (By the way, the U.S. now controls the world’s largest untapped oil reserve, the Green River Formation in Colorado, which contains more than five times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia.) The oceans are not rising more rapidly than normal, or even at all, the earth is now in a cooling trend, the catastrophic weather events have not happened, the polar bear population is rebounding, and the south Sahara region has seen an increase in vegetation.

But more to the point: population growth has slowed. Population growth peaked at 2.1 percent in 1962 and since then has fallen to almost half. In some western countries, the population has actually gone into decline—definitely not a good thing for these economies. Even China has removed its ban on more than one child per family.

As a friend of mine used to say: “I am sorry to disappoint you but things are actually getting better and better.” We are not facing catastrophic shortages, air pollution or climate change. However, I do not mean to argue that we don’t have problems that still need solving, the main one being poor child nutrition—and not only in poor countries but in rich ones also. The main deficiencies are lack of vitamins A, D and B12, and shortages of minerals zinc, iron and iodine.  These deficiencies can only be solved with an increase in animal foods, especially by making sure that children get more beef and eggs. Better nourished children translate into more prosperity and improved standards of living, and more keen minds to help solve other problems, such as those created by the excesses of industrial agriculture and pharma-based medicine.

The recommendations of the EAT-Lancet report will not save the world, but if implemented, they would keep more people in misery in both developed and developing nations. It’s a typical Malthusian ploy to prevent the poor from entering the middle class, and to keep the middle class sick and hungry.  Don’t fall for it.  Eat beef!

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a voice for returning nutrient-dense foods like beef and eggs to our tables.  Your membership supports the work we do.

Author: Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is best known as the author of Nourishing Traditions®: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.

3 thoughts on “EAT-Lancet Meets Rev. Malthus”

  1. The biggest problem in feeding the earth’s population is not production, but, as the real-estate folks say, “location, location, location”. That is, distribution. Globally, nearly 40% of produced food goes to waste. And all that rotting food produces pollution. The UN noted the distribution problem several years ago in a number of their reports on global agriculture. Did the EAT folks not do even a cursory lit search before publishing their ridiculous plan? Their “research”, BTW, as others have implied or stated outright, was funded by entities that have much to gain financially from more intensive production of GMO “plant-based” ag.

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