America needs to change its eating habits—and it’s not just because we’re putting too many notches in our belts. Much of the food that we eat and produce is hurting us and the planet.
A few weeks ago we praised of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) predicted recommendations. Last week, their report was officially released on health.gov, and it did not disappoint. For the first time, DGAC, which updates the report every five years, acknowledges the connection between food and how its production, processing, and disposal can impact the planet. And they’ve made recommendations to lower those impacts.
Chief amongst the recommendations is consuming fewer animal products, in good part because of meat’s negative health effects as well as its huge environmental impacts on land and climate.
A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that U.S. food supply also does a poor job of meeting another national nutrition standard; the Healthy Eating Index. Guidelines, such as those included in the DGAC report, that move our country away from mass production of environmentally questionable commodities like corn and soy, and more towards unprocessed fruits and vegetables, are sorely needed.
Of course, there is plenty of opposition to the DGAC’s recommendations, and it became vocal long before the report was released. Roberto Ferdman of the Washington Post explains Congress’s trepidation:
In December, Congress approved language that expressed ‘concern’ that the advisory committee was ‘considering issues outside of the nutritional focus of the panel’ — alluding to the environmental discussions. Moreover, Congress said at the time, the final Dietary Guidelines should ‘only include nutrition and dietary information.’”
Ferdman reports that Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.) was particularly outspoken on the issue. A quick look at Aderholt’s top campaign funders may indicate that his allegiances may not be based on his pursuit of pure science, but rather the interests of big agribusiness firms contributing to his success.
The backlash is to be expected. Curtailing meat consumption and its environmental degradation would mean the loss of some big bucks on the part of big agribusiness. It could also mean big gains in the health of our nation and our planet. It’s about time health took its rightful place above profit in the agricultural sector. We applaud the DGAC’s guidelines as a key first step toward fixing our ailing food system.
Think of Earth, not just your stomach, panel advises via Washington Post