European Network for a Plant-Based Diet

Members Only Event: How Can a Plant-Based Diet Contribute to Planetary Health?

July 6th's PlantEurope members only meeting gave participants the opportunity to hear from experts on the planetary health diet.

The fifth PlantEurope members only meeting gave participants the opportunity to discuss how a plant-based diet can contribute to planetary health. Guests Dr. med. Martin Herrmann (KLUG - Deutsche Allianz Klimawandel und Gesundheit) and Dorothea Baltruks from the Centre for Planetary Health Policy discussed opportunities and boundaries of the planetary health diet, before answering questions from the audience. 

Find some of their answers here:

  • The speakers emphasised the need to transform the systems and conditions shaping individual behaviour to ensure that a healthy, sustainable diet is affordable and easily available for all. This requires policy changes regarding subsidies, taxes, the regulation of advertisement and food information as well as communal catering in public institutions, schools, universities and hospitals. 
  • Asked how to best address the consumer about following a plant-based diet they recommended raising awareness about the health and ecological benefits and focussing on flexibility and adaptability of the planetary health diet to make it practible for everyone. Some progress was already visible, they pointed out, for instance the increased availability of plant-based products in supermarkets due to increased consumer demand without political incentivisation. They also mentioned the need for health professionals to educate themselves, in order to advise patients and healthcare providers.
  • The speakers also shared some ideas on how to include planetary health in political strategies. Among them were support for suggested a 0% tax on fruit and vegetables, or a change in taxation for plant-based products (in Germany plant-based milk falls under the “luxury tax” of 19%, while cow’s milk  is only taxed with 7%). The speakers also welcomed the German Nutrition Society's plans to align their recommendations closer with the planetary health diet.
  • Some evidence mentioned include a study by KLUG and German health insurance provider AOK: One of its findings was that 38% of parents were not sure if a sustainable diet is healthy for their kids, showing that targeted education is an important aspect in pushing towards the change to a more sustainable and plant-based diet. 
  • The speakers see a need to integrate health and ecolocigal impacts into the European and German agricultural policy, particularly with regards to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The fight against climate change and other ecological crises party caused by our current agricultural system (biodiversity loss, water and land use, pollution with pesticides and other chemicals, overfishing, etc.) should be approached holistically with practical solutions and incentives for a transformation towards more sustianable practices for farmers.
  • Talking about how to best approach change, the speakers highlighted the need to work with good multipliers (one of KLUG’s success cases was working with German Workers Welfare Association (AWO) as it has a strong climate strategy and is a major provider of social care services) and transformation agents that can reach out to way more people than one individual organization can. Martin Hermann furthermore emphasized the need to incorporate strong players in civil society, science and health provision that target human health to reach individuals and organisations that may not be reached by arguments on animal ethics or ecolocical arguments alone.

Don’t miss out on future PlantEurope members meetings: Sign up to become a member free of charge here and join the PlantEurope community to keep up to date on all events. 

The PlantEurope team would like to say thank you to guest speakers Dr. Martin Herrmann and Dorothea Baltruks.