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Finland must thoroughly rethink its food policy, says the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke). (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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INCREASING THE AMOUNT of fish, legumes and vegetables in the diet would help to mitigate the climate crisis, eutrophication of bodies of both fresh and salt water, and loss of biodiversity, states the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke).

Syke on 31 August issued a policy brief demanding that the national dietary guidelines place greater emphasis on ecological and nutritional sustainability – factors that, at best, go hand in hand.

“An ecologically and nutritionally sustainable food system can be achieved by changing the diet, reducing food waste and developing environmentally friendly agricultural methods. A thorough change in food policy is needed also in Finland,” it declared.

“The agricultural subsidy scheme and environmental regulations must both be re-thought to support nutritionally and environmentally sustainable food production.”

The Finnish agricultural industry, it highlighted, is focused predominantly on dairy and meat production, with around 80 per cent of all agricultural land required to cultivate crops used to feed livestock. The production of milk, meat and other animal-based products is responsible for a lion’s share of the greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient inputs of agricultural land.

Housing and food consumption, meanwhile, are the two primary reasons for the climate impact of households.

“An environmentally sustainable diet consists of more fish and vegetables and, on the other hand, less livestock products such as beef and pork. An ecologically and nutritionally sustainable diet consists of one-half of vegetables, fruits and berries, and one-half of wholemeal cereals, plant-based proteins, unsaturated fats and a reasonable amount of animal protein,” said Syke

The Nordic dietary guidelines are presently being updated and will serve as the basis for also the guidelines to be introduced in Finland, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The guidelines have an impact on the roughly 380 meals consumed annually in kindergartens, schools and other educational institutions in the country, making them critical also for sustainable eating. Also private-sector operators are able to demand that their staff restaurants comply with the guidelines.

“Environmental and sustainability issues are strongly present in the update, and there’s also a great need for environmental criteria from the field,” stated Minna Kaljonen, a leading researcher at Syke.

“The environmental aspect is present also in the guidelines today, but municipalities have no clear national guidelines. Incorporating environmental criteria into dietary guidelines would create a cohesive foundation for work on nutrition,” she added.

Kaljonen underlined that the more environmentally friendly meals should not only be appealing to the public, but also be based on sustainable and nutritiously balanced home-grown ingredients.

“Pupils and children must be heard more readily in developing new environmentally friendly recipes. The meal is a central element of the food education provided in kindergartens and schools,” she reminded.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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