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Eating More Veggies: A Recipe for Sustainability

Friday, February 20, 2015


The Obama administration’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a panel of respected scientific and medical experts who help craft the federal government’s official position on nutrition, yesterday released a long-awaited report that finally acknowledged the link between human health and environmental health.

The panel said that eating a diet higher in plant-based foods is not only beneficial for human health but makes for cleaner air and water.  The panel made public its opinion as the federal government winds through the process of drafting the Dietary Guidelines, issued every five years since 1980.

As I noted in a previous blog, food production takes a major toll on natural resources.  Farming and raising livestock take up 40 percent of the world’s land, use 70 percent of fresh water and are responsible for 30 percent of the greenhouse gases pumping into the atmosphere.

Those packages on supermarket shelves and meals on restaurant menus are about more than nutritional values. If every American skipped meat and cheese just one day every week, they would cause carbon emissions to decrease by 40 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road for a year.

It’s important that the federal government’s dietary guidelines help make this connection. I hope that the Obama administration adopts the recommendations of its advisors on the matter of sustainability. 

Yet, while the advisory committee took a step forward by addressing the environmental damages caused by the American diet, it took two steps back when it said that “neither the risks of mercury nor organic pollutants outweigh the health benefits of seafood consumption.”  We disagree. Read more here.


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