Knowledge for better food systems

US sustainable healthy guidelines movement

A number of major US NGOs, research institutions and academics have come together to support the recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). An open letter, signed by more than one hundred individuals and institutions has been published in major daily newspapers urging Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to adopt the DGAC’s scientific recommendations on sustainability.

The signatories include Conservation International, Greenpeace USA, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club and many others. Rhea Suh, President of NDRC said: “What we are seeing with the Dietary Guidelines is a rare consensus between the environmental, public health, and nutrition communities,” said “Policymakers should pay attention to this broad agreement on the historic sustainability language.”

If adopted, these recommendations have the potential to shape USDA and HHS policy on a wide range of food and nutrition issues, from WIC benefits (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) to school lunches and beyond.

The DGAC’s report recommended "a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”

Regarding sustainability, the DGAC noted that: 

"Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use."

"Linking health, dietary guidance, and the environment will promote human health and the sustainability of natural resources and ensure current and long-term food security."

Groups representing the interests of industrial agriculture have decried the sustainability language in the recommendations as exceeding the DGAC’s mandate. However a petition organized by Center for Biological Diversity, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Friends of the Earth and Healthy Food Action has already gained more than 100,000 signatures from Americans asking Secretaries Burwell and Vilsack to support the DGAC’s sustainability recommendations.

For more information, please visit My Plate, My Planet: Food For A Sustainable America at www.myplatemyplanet.org

Read the full petition here.

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North America

North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

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