A new report, published Sunday in the Lancet, implores us to think about the possibility of big, systemic fixes for these interrelated scourges. Overnutrition, undernutrition, and global warming share common causes: powerful commercial interests that promote overconsumption, “policy inertia,” and weak governance, according to the report, led by the University of Auckland in New Zealand, George Washington University in the US, and World Obesity Federation in the UK. Nowhere is that more pronounced than in the global food industry: Large food companies stuff our shelves with calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. They market their sugary drinks and snacks to children. And they lobby politicians to obstruct policies and subsidies that’d help us eat healthier.This global food system also generates up to a third of total greenhouse gas emissions.
“This report makes it clear that governments must act to curb food industry practices that promote poor health and damage the environment.” To do that, the report authors argue, we need an international treaty, one that treats Big Food companies like Big Tobacco. For the latest report, the authors call for broader solutions: more sustainable agricultural practices, redirecting food subsidies to support healthy, environmentally friendly food-production activities, and holding food companies to account for the pollution they’re contributing. To do all this, they propose an elegant solution: an international treaty modeled on the one that helped curb smoking worldwide.