Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 6, 2015

Contact: Stephanie Feldstein, (734) 395-0770

USDA May Abandon Sustainability Mandate in Food Guidelines for Americans

WASHINGTON— According to an interview published Monday by VICE News, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the final recommendations for the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines — intended to outline how Americans should eat — will not factor sustainability concerns into its food recommendations.

“If the Obama administration caves to pressure from the meat industry in its final recommendations, it’ll be doing a great disservice to the health of Americans and the planet,” said Stephanie Feldstein, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s population and sustainability program. “Our food policy can’t continue to ignore that meat production is one of the greatest threats to the climate, clean water, wildlife and our remaining natural areas, not to mention all of the direct health concerns linked to meat consumption.”

The USDA’s comments follow outrage from the meat industry over preliminary indications that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee planned to urge Americans to eat less meat as part of the committee’s first-ever sustainability mandate. The advisory committee also came under pressure last month, when Congress included a directive in the spending bill for it to ignore “agricultural production practices and environmental factors” in the guidelines.

“From pesticides to intense water use to climate change, our food system is intricately linked to the health of our families and communities,” said Feldstein. “If we don’t pay attention to how food production is destroying the environment, it will ultimately pull the rug out from all of our other efforts to keep our growing human population nourished and healthy.”

Multiple studies released in 2014 linked high meat and dairy consumption to climate change, including a University of Michigan study that found if Americans followed the current dietary guidelines, it would result in a 12 percent increase in diet-related greenhouse gas emissions, largely due to increased dairy consumption.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Take Extinction Off Your Plate campaign highlights the environmental impacts of meat production and urges Americans to reduce their environmental footprint and help save wildlife by eating less meat. More than 19,000 people have already taken the Center’s “Earth-friendly Diet Pledge” to reduce their meat consumption.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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