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Analysis finds strong support for sustainability, less meat in Dietary Guidelines

Posted Oct. 5, 2015 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

Additional legal analysis shows clear basis for sustainability in guidelines

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new analysis released today -- of an unprecedented 29,000 public comments on the 2015 Scientific Report’s recommendations on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- reveals overwhelming support for including sustainability considerations and clear guidance for diets that include less meat and more plants. A companion analysis outlined the legal basis and argument for including sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines.

“A review of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's (DGAC) recommendations shows that each and every one of them, including eating less meat and more vegetables and fruits, and the historic sustainability recommendation, are based on a rigorous review of the science and literature,” said Bob Martin, director of Food System Policy at the Center for a Livable Future. “Congress shouldn’t ignore science-based recommendations or the thousands of public comments supporting them.”

The House Committee on Agriculture will hold a hearing on the Dietary Guidelines on Wednesday, October 7.

My Plate, My Planet, an initiative launched to support the scientific recommendations of the DGAC in promoting both human health and environmental sustainability, commissioned the analysis from QUID, a data analytics firm. QUID analyzed a representative sample of the public comments and found 75% of them supported the sustainability and nutrition recommendations of the DGAC.

“The sheer number of comments -- fourteen times the number submitted in 2010 -- shows overwhelming public support for the science-based recommendations for linking nutrition and environmental concerns, including less meat and more plant-based foods in our diets,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager with Friends of Earth. 

My Plate, My Planet also supported a legal review of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s claim that concerns about sustainability and environmental impacts are beyond the scope of the law. 

“Our analysis of the law, including the Congressional intent, clearly shows that USDA and HHS would be well within its mandate to incorporate sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” said public health attorney Michele Simon, who spearheaded the legal research. 

The review found that the guiding principles of 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- which were approved by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack -- called upon the nation to: “Develop and expand safe, effective, and sustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices to ensure availability of recommended amounts of healthy foods to all segments of the population.” This is clear evidence that the current call for sustainability is nothing new, but rather simply an expanded version of what Secretary Vilsack endorsed just five years ago.

Also supporting the basis for the guidelines’ incorporation of sustainability considerations is former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan who partnered with colleagues from Tufts and George Washington Universities to author “Designing a Sustainable Diet”, published on October 1, 2015 in Science Magazine.

Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director with the Center for Biological Diversity says, “The precedent set by previous Dietary Guidelines along with the latest scientific evidence and incredible public engagement in this year’s process all point to same conclusion: Sustainability is crucial to the health of Americans and our food security, and must be included in the final guidelines.”

Since the release of the Scientific Report in February 2015, there has been an outpouring of public support for its sustainability recommendations including:

  • a petition from 12 organizations with more than 150,000 signatories
  • a letter from 49 major health, public interest, and environmental organizations to Secretaries Vilsack and Burwell 
  • a joint statement signed by more than 100 environmental and health organizations and experts in support of sustainability, less meat, and more plant-based foods in the DGA that was featured in full-page advertisements in the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico.
  • a letter  of support from more than 700 health professionals—including Yale University’s Dr. David Katz and Harvard University’s Dr. Walter Willett
  • a resolution adopted by the US Conference of Mayors 

My Plate, My Planet supports the scientific recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in promoting both human health and environmental sustainability in America's official dietary policyhttp://www.myplatemyplanet.org

For more information, including Friends of the Earth's comments on the Dietary Guidelines, click here.

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Contacts:
Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, kcolwell@foe.org
Natalie Wood-Wright, (443) 287-2771, nwoodwr1@jhu.edu
Stephanie Feldstein, (734) 395-0770, sfeldstein@biologicaldiversity.org

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