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Planetary health diet or the consumption of more plant and less meat for better human and planetary health, was underscored in a webinar hosted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in celebration of this year’s nutrition month.

Dr. Renzo R. Guinto, director of the Planetary and Global Health Program of St. Luke’s Medical Center, explained that overconsumption of red meat raises cancer risks, and its production contributes to around 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The world is consuming high carbon and less nutritious food products like red meat. Our diet should be healthy for both the planet and the people. The planetary health diet plate includes 50% for leafy vegetables, around 15% for whole grains, around 3% for meat, and starchy vegetables, dairy foods, plant-sourced protein, unsaturated plant oils, and added sugars sharing the remaining percentage,” he expounded.

He added that this is the best diet, but we must also consider demographics and identify suitable diets for specific populations.

People and the planet’s health intertwined

Dr. Guinto stressed that the food system, from food production to consumption, affects the health of humans and the planet earth.

He added that the planet’s demise is inextricably intertwined with human health.

“The planet’s health is essential in preventing infectious diseases in humans. As people destroy ecosystems through land use change, wildlife trade, and the use of animals increases the chance of another virus jumping from an animal to a human being,” he said.

Food system transformation

To solve the issues on the food system from a planetary perspective, he recommends that the agriculture and forestry sectors focus on improving yields, increasing productivity, cutting food wastes, and producing healthy calories.

“We need action in all sectors to develop best farming practices with low emission intensity and promote a plant-based diet to reduce meat consumption. We should also adopt climate-resilient agricultural practices. We should help our fisherfolk in providing solutions for the ocean acidification and warming, as these don’t only affect their income but also their health since they rely on the ocean greatly for the source of protein (i.e., sea foods) in their diet,” he said.

To balance nutrition and health amidst climate change, COVID-19 pandemic, wars, and other crises, Guinto said promotion of local production and improvement in delivery systems are also crucial.

“We must have an efficient delivery system to organize the distribution of our local products – good governance is central to this,” he said.

He likewise emphasized the need to shift from “ego-logical” to “eco-logical” approach.

“We always think we are on the top of nature’s pyramid. We consume, kill, produce, mine, and extract. We need to shift to a true “eco-logical” approach where people live in harmony, solidarity, and greater interdependence with planet earth and creatures great and small,” he concluded in a webinar live streamed via Zoom and PhilRice’s Facebook page:

Institutional activities

In related events, PhilRice’s Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division spearheaded activities to increase awareness on wellbeing.

“We conducted activities that promote healthy lifestyles and proper nutrition among PhilRice employees and the general public as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis to signify our commitment to this year’s theme, “New Normal na Nutrisyon, Sama-samang Gawan ng Solusyon!”, while staying relevant to the needs of the society,” Evelyn Bandonill, activity lead, said.

Highlighting the importance of a healthy diet, brown rice and mélange (mixture of unpolished forms of pigmented and non-pigmented rice) were served in the Institute’s cafeteria on Mondays of July, a weekly trivia challenge that provided relevant nutrition information to staff were implemented, and free tasting of golden rice (GR) and GR paella were conducted.

Nutritionists and food scientists from PhilRice also shared their knowledge to the public through various radio programs in Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Isabela, and Davao Occidental.

In partnership with East-West Seed Philippines and the Palayamanan Team of the Institute, free healthy and nutritious food, vegetable seeds, and Personal Protective Equipment were distributed to a drug rehabilitation institution in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija.

Bandonill said that these activities were conducted through blended platforms and were properly coordinated to ensure strict adherence to minimum public health standards.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute