February 19, 2015

Sustainability Is Within DGAC Mandate and Necessary for Good Dietary Guidelines

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 19, 2015) – Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). This report is the scientific basis for the federal recommendations released every five years to promote health and prevent disease.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the distinguished scientists who are members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) have conducted their work with a systematic, comprehensive and evidence-based approach and their conclusions represent scientific consensus.

Below is a statement by Doug Boucher, UCS’s Tropical Forest & Climate Initiative:

“The recommendations have caused quite a stir simply because they consider sustainability issues. This is surprising since the 2010 DGAC suggested that the 2015 DGAC look at sustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices to ensure that the recommended amounts of healthy foods are available for all. What’s the point of the guidelines if we don’t produce enough of the recommended foods?

“And sustainability is not the only area where past and current committees have explored beyond the narrow definition of diet and nutrition. The 2005 DGAC report was the first to make conclusions about the cost and availability of fruits and vegetables, and in 2010, the DGAC recommended creating regulations concerning marketing food and beverages to children. If economics, accessibility and even marketing are within the DGAC’s mandate, then surely the consideration of sustainability is also within the committee’s purview.

“Furthermore, sustainability and nutrition go hand in hand. Generally, diets that are better for our health are also better for the planet. This means eating more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and less beef and processed foods.

“Science is the basis for the DGAC’s decision to include sustainability in the report. Recently there have been several scientific studies showing our food system and dietary choices have a huge impact on our climate, natural resources, and the future availability and cost of healthy foods. The committee is just adhering to what science tells them.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.