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Economic, social and environmental spillovers decrease the benefits of a global dietary shift



Dietary shifts are key for enhancing the sustainability of current food systems but need to account for potential economic, social and environmental indirect effects as well. By tracing physical quantities of biomass along supply chains in a global economic model, we investigate the benefits of adopting the EAT–Lancet diet and other social, economic and environmental spillovers in the wider economy. We find that decreased global food demand reduces global biomass production, food prices, trade, land use and food loss and waste but also reduces food affordability for low-income agricultural households. In sub-Saharan Africa, increased food demand and higher prices decrease food affordability also for non-agricultural households. Economic spillovers into non-food sectors limit agricultural land and greenhouse gas reductions as cheaper biomass is demanded more for non-food use. From an environmental perspective, economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions increase as lower global food demand at lower prices frees income subsequently spent on non-food items.

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Fig. 1: Average global net food intakes in 2020 and in 2030 with BAU and diet scenarios.
Fig. 2: Changes in biomass production and international trade with a healthy and sustainable diet.
Fig. 3: Change in healthy food and staple food affordability for low-skilled workers employed in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.
Fig. 4: Drivers of changes in affordability of healthy foods and staple foods.
Fig. 5: Magnitude, composition and geographical location of global FLW generation in the transition towards the EAT–Lancet diet.

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Data availability

The FLW database and results data are available in the Supplementary Information.

Code availability

The code used for the analysis is described in the Supplementary Information.


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This study was supported by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality via the knowledge and innovation Connected Circularity programme (grant number KB-40-001-001), Circular and Climate Neutral Society (grant number KB-34-002-006) and Healthy and Safe food systems (grant number KB-37-001-007) and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 86193). This publication reflects only the authors’ view; the funding agencies are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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A.G., M.K. and H.v.M. conceived and designed the experiments, performed the experiments, analysed the data, contributed materials/analysis tools and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Alessandro Gatto.

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Nature Food thanks Hanna Helander and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–18 and Tables 1–21.

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Gatto, A., Kuiper, M. & van Meijl, H. Economic, social and environmental spillovers decrease the benefits of a global dietary shift. Nat Food 4, 496–507 (2023).

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