Radical Diet and Taxation Agenda Threatens Consumer Sovereignty

There is a proposal to use punitive taxation, rationing, and outright bans on meats to help bureaucrats decide what you should eat. When the EAT-Lancet Commission issued its report, three years in the making, on healthy eating a few weeks ago, it was quickly assailed by medical experts who pointed out that its supposedly “optimal,” plant-dominated diet is deficient in key micronutrients including calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamin D.

The nutritional goals set out in the report drastically restrict the consumption of meat and other animal products, despite mounting medical evidence that vegetarian and vegan diets can be harmful, especially to children. For example, under the so-called EAT diet pork consumption is capped at about one-tenth of a sausage per day, while one and a half nuggets represent the daily ration of chicken. Consumption of beans, lentils, soy, and nuts is massively increased relative to current U.S. levels.

While EAT-Lancet bills itself as an impartial, scientifically-driven enterprise, its members are mostly ideological activists with a vested interest in discouraging animal products and shifting global food policy toward plant-based systems. One of the report’s authors, Dr. Marco Springmann of Oxford University, has called for a meat tax of more than 100 percent in high-income countries like the U.S. Another author, Harvard professor Walter Willett, has asserted that one on three early deaths could be avoided if we all adopted a vegetarian diet. These calculations are based on dubious assumptions, a selective reading of the epidemiological literature, and a refusal to acknowledge inconvenient facts.

On top of its credibility issues, EAT-Lancet is largely funded by billionaire benefactors and global activist networks. There is also evidence of financial ties between the EAT-Lancet movement and some of the world’s largest multinational agricultural companies, which recognize the profit-making potential of harnessing government power to promote “plant-based” lifestyles.

EAT-Lancet’s kooky ideas on nutrition and extreme ideological stance may be concerning, but its latest report, which calls on governments to enact draconian regulations to micromanage our food choices, is even more troubling. Though the report’s language isn’t explicit, the subtext is clear: policymakers at all level of government must use all in their power to force consumers to conform to “optimal” dietary guidelines and adopt tobacco-style regulation on our food supply — including punitive taxes on animal products and massive subsidies to prop up favored foods. The report urges governments and philanthropists to raise $1 billion to fund lobbying efforts, strong-arm uncooperative policymakers, and promote “social marketing.”

EAT-Lancet brazenly lays out its plan to use international organizations with few democratic checks to advance its radical agenda. The authors urge agencies within the United Nations, as well as regional coalitions like the European Union and Pacific Forum, “to develop legally binding agreements such as the Framework Convention on Food Systems.”

The end goal is clear: Tight bureaucratic control over the food industry and the disappearance of competitive markets responsive to consumer demand. Governments and activists will decide what you eat, and if local or national policymakers are unwilling to go along, then supra-national organizations will intervene. It is difficult to conceive of a more blatantly condescending and anti-consumer initiative.

Promoting healthy diets and sustainable agriculture is important but imposing authoritarian restrictions on consumer choice is the wrong approach. Instead of growing the nanny state, governments should foster personal responsibility and a sense of ownership of our health.

Each one of us should decide what we eat, not activists peddling flawed science and wielding the power of the state.

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