While it might not seem immediately obvious, the foods we choose have environmental impacts that can be far-reaching. Now congress is attempting to silence the voices of top nutrition experts who are trying to spread the word about how the production and creation of our food affects the world around us. NPR reports that a government-appointed group of nutrition experts who are tasked with establishing dietary guidelines for Americans decided earlier this year to gather data on the environmental implications of food choices. But a recent spending bill passed by both the House and Senate contains a list of “congressional directives” expressing concern over the Dietary Advisory Guidelines Committee’s (DAGC) actions.
According to NPR, one of the directives claims that the DAGC “…is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors…” into their recommendations, and subsequently directs the Obama administration to ignore these factors in the next set of guidelines due for release next year. This directive isn’t legally binding, however, ignoring them could spark another feud between Obama and Congress.
DAGC members aren’t allowed to speak to the media, but Timothy Searchinger—a researcher for Princeton University and the World Resource Institute—thinks that including sustainability considerations in diet is a good idea. Searchinger told NPR that food production already takes up half of all the land where vegetation can grow, and farming is one of the largest generators of greenhouse gasses. “That doesn’t mean farmers are bad,” he says. “It means that eating has a big impact on the environment”.
This congressional directive isn’t the first hurdle this initiative has faced, as the American Meat Institute claims that nutritionists don’t have the expertise to tackle environmental questions. It just so happens that the factory farming of meat is one of the most greenhouse gas-intensive activities on the planet. There’s some food for thought.