To Maintain habitable climate, most scientists agree That the switch to renewable energy alone is not enough – Americans also need to change the way they eat. Environmental and public health advocates are pushing a new strategy to help get there: including a climate breakdown in the official US Dietary Guidelines, which makes up what goes into the billions of meals eaten across the country each year.
Every five years, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services jointly publish a new edition of guiding rules. They form the basis of the eating guide facing the public classpreviously MyPyramid, as well as several government-supported meal programs, such as the National School Lunch. Historically, these guidelines have focused narrowly on human nutrition, but some now say they should be expanded to include climate considerations as well.
The current 150-page edition for 2020-2025 does not mention the role of food in the climate crisis at all. Climate groups say this is an abdication, with Americans feeling the effects of global warming more than ever. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, the most important climate legislation in US history, He does very little to treat the diet.
“Climate change poses many threats to human health and nutrition security. We cannot take these things out of each other,” said Jesse Silverman, senior policy assistant at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Her group and 39 others, including the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Academy American Pediatrics, in May message Urging the government to include sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines 2025-2030, which is now under development.
The element of sustainability would encourage Americans to eat less meat and dairy It has a much higher climate impact It is a nutritionally similar plant food. “It would be practically impossible to even get two grades [Celsius] “Reducing global temperature change without incorporating significant reductions in beef intake,” said Mark Rifkin, chief food and agricultural policy specialist for the Center for Biodiversity, another site on the letter.
Walter Willett, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said current guidelines advise Americans to eat far more animal products than is sustainable. The basic diet chart recommends 26 ounces of protein from meat, poultry, and eggs per week, compared to just 5 ounces from plant-based foods, although there are alternative charts showing how vegans can get the same nutrients without meat. He also said that they “still basically say three servings of dairy a day, which is really drastic because our current consumption is 1.6 servings a day.” “Just recommending three servings of dairy and not saying anything about the environmental consequences if people actually did this is completely irresponsible.”
Because most Americans are deficient in fiber and fruits and vegetables, not animal products, dietitian Rifkin said the climate-focused guidelines would align with what the public needs nutritionally. It will also help address other problems that stem from America’s meat-laden diet, he said, including risks of future epidemics, food security and pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations, which disproportionately affect communities of color.
It did not include a list of proposed questions released in April for the scientific committee that advises the sustainability guidelines. That worries defenders, but they say it’s still early days. Janet de Jesus, HHS team lead for the guidelines, said sustainability could still be included. “We’re not saying it won’t be in the dietary guidelines — we’re not saying that at all,” de Jesus said. “It is a top priority for HHS leadership to tackle climate change.”
Countries including Germany, Brazil, Sweden and Qatar have addressed sustainability in their dietary guidelines, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Report. Canada Food guide It is advised to choose plant foods more often for the environment. Germany has reduced per capita meat consumption by 12% since 2011, Vox mentioned Last month, the Minister of Food and Agriculture recently prioritized a shift toward more plant-based eating.
Advocates say a change in US dietary guidelines could have a similar effect. “The guidelines are more influential than I think a lot of people realize,” Silverman said. Federal food aid programs must comply with the guidelines, and shape how millions of people eat. National school lunch and national school breakfast, for example, served more From 7 billion meals a year for tens of millions of children before the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines too Effect Cafeteria food is served in government buildings, hospitals, and other institutions, and is used in nutrition education programs.
Access to the National School Lunch puts it “in a unique position to influence the dietary patterns of American children and adolescents and could help address the environmental impacts of food systems,” according to a recent report. paper In Earth and Environmental Communications. Meat contributes disproportionately to the impact of school meals on climate, as well as land and water use.
Because government programs and other large corporations serve up a lot of meals, as sustainability advocates have done in recent years concentrated Trying to influence food buying decisions. California earlier this year custom $100 million to help schools provide more vegetarian meals.
This isn’t the first time the environment has run into a problem with the state’s dietary guidelines. In 2015, a government-appointed panel of nutrition experts advised on the 2015-2020 guidelines directed Sustainability in its scientific report. In general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and lower in animal foods is more health-promoting and is associated with a lower environmental impact.
But after a cry from meat industry And the republican legislatorsThe recommendation to eat more plants was dropped from the final guidelines. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal at the time, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said sustainability was outside the scope of dietary guidelines and comparison His granddaughter’s scientific committee that “colors outside the lines”.
“It’s really transcendental stuff,” said Bob Martin, of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, of Vilsack’s comments. “The people involved in this matter were highly qualified.”
Agribusiness has long history From affecting dietary guidelines, it will undoubtedly be a factor this time around as well. The Meat And the dairy Industries It spent $49.5 million on political contributions in 2020, And the else $15.9 million the pressure Federal government.
Food industry groups also routinely report putting pressure on federal nutrition policy. The National Beef Association between 2014 and 2016 spent more than $303,000 lobbying to keep beef in dietary guidelines, according to Federal pressure records. Several industry groups, including the North American Meat Institute, the International Dairy Food Association, and the Turkish National Federation, have already influenced the 2025-2030 guidance process. “[W]The National Pork Producers Council wrote in a public comment in May that, while an important topic, sustainability falls outside the purview of dietary guidelines.
Although environmental advocates face an uphill battle, much has changed since the failed 2015 attempt to incorporate sustainability, says Jesse Silverman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “I think the public pressure to put in place concrete policies to tackle climate change has grown a lot in the years since.”
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