Thank you for publishing my letter to the editor in this week’s edition of The Economist (@TheEconomist).
It’s written regarding this published piece in the magazine from November 15, regarding a study about the health and environmental impact of foods.
I’d like to thank the Economist team for a friendly dialogue about my concerns over email. They explained the process they used to generate the visual, in consultation with the study authors. They published my letter in the interest of the audience forming its own conclusions.
Red meat is about 35 times as damaging to the environment as a bowl of greens, a new study says https://t.co/mPNMO16IiK
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) November 28, 2019
They published this text of my letter, and also nicely linked out to the infographic I created, which is also reproduced below.
I wrote a post with more detailed references which you can access here. I am also happy to dialogue about the data points in the letter in the comments.
A meaty issue
* I was dismayed to see your Daily chart on “How much would giving up meat help the environment?” (November 15th). The axes were distorted (from log to linear), and you removed a most concerning datapoint, for sugar-sweetened beverages, from the original that called the paper it referenced into question. The result was that the original figure’s message was distorted to more conveniently serve your headline. This is important, because the environmental impact of health-care use is significant (10% of greenhouse gases in the United States), and food choices that increase health-care use, such as sugary beverages, would mitigate any emissions savings from moving away from unprocessed foods, including meat. The health impact data that the original paper is based on has been largely called into question following the publication of the NutriRECS papers on October 1st. Finally, you did not question the original paper’s use of relative risk measures, versus absolute risk. Relative risk magnifies perceived harms and is often used when the actual increased risk of a behaviour is not as great.
I describe the changes in this graphic. I’d also like to point out that your chart discussion implies that dietary choices are the major determinant of personal emissions. They are not. Transportation and fossil fuel use are far more significant. To support this fact, another study has shown that the elimination of all animal agriculture from the United States would reduce greenhouse gases by 2.6 %, with the resulting widespread malnutrition.
DR TED EYTAN
On diversity, Palm Beach, America’s army, AI writers, meat, genes, Emmanuel Macron: Letters to the editor: A selection of correspondence
See: Health and environmental impacts of foods: How to visually transform a published figure to favor a specific interpretation – Ted Eytan, MD