Obesity, undernutrition and climate change are the biggest threats to the world population, linked by profit motives and policy inertia, a top commission said on Sunday, calling for a binding plan and trillions of dollars to thwart the dangers.
A US$1 billion fund and action strategies targeting food policy and production are urgently needed to support health, the environment and economic well-being, said the report by the Lancet Commission on Obesity, a panel of experts in agriculture, economics, human rights and other fields.
The three problems of obesity, undernutrition and climate change are intertwined by methods of agricultural production, transport, urban design and land use that will take an enormous toll on the population and planet, the commission said.
“What we’re doing now is unsustainable,” said William Dietz, an author of the study and a public health expert at George Washington University in Washington.
“The only thing we can hope is that a sense of urgency will permeate,” he said on a conference call. “We’re running out of time.”
Government subsidies of US$500 billion to beef, dairy and other food industries worldwide should be shifted to sustainable, healthy farming and US$5 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies moved to renewable energy and sustainable transport, the commission said.
The three global dangers are linked in such ways as mass production of processed, nutrient-poor food that causes not only obesity and poor nutrition, but major greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, the report said.
“Until now, undernutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories. In reality, they are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy that is single-focused on economic growth and ignores the negative health and equity outcomes,” said Boyd Swinburn, a professor at the University of Auckland and cochair of the commission.
“Climate change has the same story of profits and power ignoring the environmental damage caused by current food systems, transportation, urban design and land use,” he said.
Agricultural production and distribution burn fossil fuels that contribute to rising global temperatures, drought and extreme weather, the commission said.
The problems are exacerbated by inaction by policymakers, influence by profit-seeking food companies over public policy and a lack of demand for change by the public, the report said.
As illustration, it said that in 2016, companies making sugar-filled drinks spent almost US$50 million to lobby against US government initiatives to reduce consumption of the beverages thought to contribute to poor nutrition and obesity.
“With market power comes industry power, said Tim Lobstein, a commission author and the director of policy at the World Obesity Federation, a British-based professional group. “Even willing governments struggle to get policies implemented against industry pressure.”
About 4 million deaths each year are linked to obesity, and about 815 million people are chronically undernourished, the commission said.
The commission said a binding international agreement, similar to that reached on global warming in 2015, is needed to address and improve food production and distribution.
It also called for a UN treaty along the lines of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to support countries in drawing up sustainable and healthy food policies. As the framework does with the tobacco industry, the proposed treaty would ban food and drink companies from discussions.
Additional reporting by the Guardian
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
CONSOLIDATION? Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive-general Doong Sy-chi said Beijing’s intimidation tactics are further alienating those who identify as Chinese Only 2 percent of respondents to a poll on constitutional amendments and national identity identified as Chinese, while 62.6 percent identified as Taiwanese, the Taiwan Thinktank said yesterday. Legislators have proposed amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文), which would change the definition of the nation’s territory, remove the Taiwan Provincial Government as an entity, prioritize the use of “Taiwan” for national groups at international events, and remove restrictions on defining the national emblem, national flag and national anthem. The poll showed that 80.5 percent of respondents agreed that the nation should participate as “Taiwan” at events organized by world
MISTAKE: The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is not a UN body, and the government is committed to protecting the nation’s name, Joseph Wu said The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday condemned the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its Web site, and asked that it correct the error. The organization was inaugurated in Brussels in 2016 as a global coalition of mayors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Six Taiwanese cities at the time joined the coalition as cities in “Taiwan,” the ministry said. However, officials from the Kaohsiung City Government — one of the organization’s members — last week noticed that the city was now listed on the organization’s Web site as a