Should Environmental Sustainability Play A Role in Dietary Guidelines?
Do you believe that environmental considerations should play a role in setting dietary guidelines? Here in the US, 49 academic centers, health advocacy groups, and environmental advocacy groups that make up the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisary Committee (DGAC) sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt tsustainability recommendations developed by the DGAC.
The letter places strong emphasis on plant-based diets, indicating benefits for both human health and the health of the environment. “The food we eat, and how it’s raised, has a profound effect on public health and the environment,” said Bob Martin, director of Food System Policy at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
The letter goes into how the industrial model for meat production in the US is unsustainable and is a potential threat to public health, due in part to the routine use of antibiotics. It also states that the new dietary guidelines should take into account, how meat is raised, (notice they don’t use the word animals) and lowering meat consumption.
In addition, the letter emphasizes sustainable seafood production and eating lower on the aquatic food chain, as industrial fishing over the past half-century has noticeably depleted the topmost links in aquatic food chains, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, one of the technical organizations of the United Nations.
Despite broad support from health and environmental groups, USDA and HHS are facing stiff opposition from lobbying groups for the meat and poultry industries to omit the sustainability recommendations in the final rendition of the revised dietary guidelines. They argue that lean meat consumption is a key component of a healthy diet, and that environmental sustainability should not be discussed with regard to an individual’s diet.
The letter urges the USDA to resist pressure from lobbying groups, stating that “current industrial food production methods can work to undercut the nation’s long-term food security by contributing to biodiversity loss, soil degradation, water contamination, climate change, and antibiotic resistance.”
The public is encouraged to view the Committee’s Advisory Report and provide written comments at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/ The comment period has been extended through 11:59 p.m. E.D.T. on May 8, 2015.
What are your thoughts and concerns regarding dietary guidelines? Do you believe that environmental concerns should play a role in responsible food choices? If so, how much of a role do you think environmental concerns should play in shaping eating habits both collectively and individually?