Environment and health groups support Dietary Guidelines sustainability focus at Public Meeting

More than 100 organizations and experts urge Obama administration to embrace Scientific Report’s recommendations for more plants, less meat

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hear public testimony today on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which for the first time has included sustainability considerations among its recommendations.

Speaking on behalf of Friends of the Earth, Kari Hamerschlag, Food and Technology senior program manager, will ask the USDA and HHS to embrace the Scientific Report’s recommendations on sustainability: “Sustainability and the health of the nation are deeply intertwined,” Hamerschlag will tell agency officials. “This is not a theoretical issue. An unprecedented drought is gripping the nation’s critical food producing areas and much of our precious — and rapidly declining — water supply is going to thirsty crops that are fed to animals.” 

“Given the large quantities of water, pesticides, fuel, and fertilizer that go into industrial meat and dairy production, shifting towards plant-based diets must play a key role in our efforts to feed more people with fewer resources, while curbing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing air and water pollution,” Hamerschlag said.

Friends of the Earth will bring to the public meeting the voices of more than 120,000 individuals who have signed a petition supporting the Expert Panel’s call for a diet with more plant based foods and fewer animal products for the sake of public health and the environment.

The petition is being promoted by a coalition of more than a dozen organizations including Center for Biological Diversity, Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Future, Healthy Food Action, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, Green America, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network, Food Tank, Roots of Change, Rain Forest Action Network, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Slow Food USA.

Timed in conjunction with today’s public meeting, Friends of the Earth joins a group of more than 100 organizations, experts and prominent individuals in signing an open letter to Secretaries Burwell and Vilsack urging support for sustainability in the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The letter is featured in full-page advertisements today in the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico. This is the first time such a wide array of national and local organizations and individuals have publicly called for a federal food policy to shift diets away from heavy consumption of animal products. The joint statement with the slogan “My Plate My Planet, Food for a Sustainable America” encourages citizens to give public comments on the health.gov site in support of including sustainability language before May 8.

Organizational signatories of the open letter advertisement include Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, NRDC, WK Kellogg Foundation, Humane Society, Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, Center for Science in the Public Interest, National WIC Association, Farmworker Association of Florida, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives and Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. James Cameron, Kathleen Merrigan, Former Deputy Secretary of USDA, Chef Tom Colicchio, Suzy Amis Cameron, Frances Moore Lappé, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Dean Ornish, Maria Rodale, Eric Schlosser, Dr. Fred Kirschenmann and Marion Nestle are among more than 30 prominent individuals signing onto the ad.

The full page advertisement builds upon the submission of a letter signed by 49 groups asking Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Burwell “to show a strong commitment to keeping Americans, and our shared environment, healthier by developing clear dietary recommendations on the need for reduced consumption of animal products and more plant-based foods.”

Friends of the Earth and its allies hope that the public support demonstrated by the petition, ad and letter will bolster the Obama administration’s resolve in the face of the mounting pressure from the meat industry and a number of Republican Members of Congress to reject the Scientific Report’s recommendations around sustainability and less meat consumption.

More information on Friends of the Earth’s Good Food, Healthy Planet campaign and Friends of the Earth’s full testimony on the Dietary Guidelines can be found here.

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Expert contact: Kari Hamerschlag, Friends of the Earth, (510) 207-7257, khamerschlag@foe.org
Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, kcolwell@foe.org