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There is hope with keynote speaker Mark Bittman

Those who expected only nightmare scenarios during the keynote speech on Sunday were disappointed. If we want to win the war on obesity we should all embrace veganism, according to New York Times columnist Mark Bittman.

For the first time in human history more people are dying from 'lifestyle diseases' than infectious diseases. This makes us both blessed and cursed as a species, according to food writer Mark Bittman. The next challenge therefore is to eliminate fattening sugars, eat less meat and more vegetables.

How are we going to do that? Asking the right questions is easy, Bittman said during his keynote speech, but finding the right answers and solutions is a lot harder. The cookbook author, a regular guest on the Daily Show and other television programmes, thus also had no easy answers to offer. He did however have a useful roadmap, the first step of which is being aware of what food really is (and that is not junk food) and increasing transparency of the food production process.

That doesn't just mean showing gruesome scenes of the conditions in factory farming. Revealing that a fast-food company underpays its workers in order to avoid providing health insurance will, Bittman believes, make consumers think twice about buying a burger from that chain. But the point he kept coming back to was forcing local or national governments to adopt new legislation imposing higher taxes on junk food.

And that will happen, he says. He predicts that "sugar will be the cigarette of the 21st century", even though legislation restricting sugar in products has so far been unsuccessful.

Even so, we do not have to move mountains to live healthier lives. All we have to do is make small adjustments to our culturally determined diet ("we aren't born loving doughnuts"). Those who eat a little less meat and more vegetables – and "shift from the one extreme of fast food towards that of veganism" – is already on the right track.

If that is the only thing we can pass on to our friends and families, we have already won a small victory in the battle against junk food and dirty GMO politics. The future may not be rosy, says Bittman, but it is also not without hope.


Text: Hans Klis

Photos: Mitchell Voorbergen

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