Should federal dietary guidelines consider environmental costs of food choices?

Jordi Elias/Corbis

“A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation’s dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices,” writes NPR’s Dan Charles.

Congress now has slapped them down.

Lawmakers attached a list of “congressional directives” to a massive spending bill that passed both the House and the Senate in recent days. One of those directives expresses “concern” that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee “is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors” into their recommendations, and directs the Obama administration to ignore such factors in the next revision of the guidelines, which is due out next year.

The directive is not legally binding, but ignoring it would provoke yet another political battle between the Obama administration and Congress.

Today’s Question: Should federal dietary guidelines consider environmental costs of food choices?

  • J-dawg

    God forbid we upset the agriculture lobby

    • Gary F

      Or the big government social engineering types.

      • reggie

        If the production practices of a business imposes costs or consequences on others, shouldn’t the producer be held accountable? The basic libertarian principle of freedom to do as you please carries with it the explicit requirement that your freedom not impede another’s. When producers of agricultural, industrial, financial products, etc. leave behind messes that must be cleaned up by the public, at the public’s expense, why shouldn’t there be consequences?

        You often argue here for a limited government.In this case, we have food production practices that foul both air and water. We have “food” subsidies that incent production of unhealthy products. Since there is clearly no self-regulation by industry, isn’t it the primary role of government to protect public health and safety?

        • davehoug

          IF a practice is harmful, then ban it……or add a “health impact fee” See our governor for how that works….. or New York City.

  • Jim G

    They say that the world as we know it could end with a big bang; maybe an asteroid strike or nuclear warfare, or maybe a whimper. Ebola raises the possibility of pestilence and disease. The methane produced by cows and pigs is a bigger greenhouse gas than many people realize. Big agricultural corporations have paid for this Congress and they’ll make sure these nutritionists are drowned out by their gaseous by-products. The world as we know it may just end… by uncontrolled flatulence.

  • David P.

    We should factor in the environmental and human rights impact of our food, energy, transportation, clothing and housing choices.

    • davehoug

      Absolutely, but that is different information than nutrition. IF folks want to decide on how green a food is when purchasing, fine. BUT don’t pretend it is a nutrition choice.

      • Gary F

        And when people still don’t want to succumb to big government control, does the government threaten them with force?

  • davehoug

    It is all more complicated than a sound bite.

    Which acre does more to release oxygen and soak up CO2: The Brazilian rainforest or Northern MN swamp………the correct answer is swamp.

    • BJ

      Except the PER acre isn’t how the world works. 5.5 million square kilometers, that is how big the rainforest is. That’s about 60% of the US. Unless a very larger part of the US is swamp we really don’t have much to talk about.

      • davehoug

        AAAHHH but the rainforest has very thin soil, what grows dies and is quickly rotted and used for the next tree. The CO2 capture while wood is growing is released once it rots. BUT in MN swamps (one researcher found some go down 60 feet) the plant growth does NOT completely rot. The CO2 is sequestered unlike the whole rainforest, which recycles it fast.

  • Casi Mulenburg

    It’s simple, enviornmentally friendly food production IS healthier. Animal agriculture, pesticide and herbicide use is bad for the environment and for the people. This is not hard.

    • davehoug

      Very True, but SHOULD that impact be labeled as what is more nutritious for you???? I can applaud additional info on green impact, but please don’t mix it with nutrition recommendations.

  • Sue de Nim

    I’m not sure it should those issues, important as they are, should be considered under dietary guidelines. What does bother me, however, is another push by a powerful lobby to prohibit a government agency from considering something that may or may not have a social impact. A few years ago, the NRA got Congress to prohibit the CDC from studying the health impact of guns, and now big agribusiness wants the USDA not to study the environmental impact of the food we produce. I’m always suspicious when a powerful group tries to suppress information.

  • PaulJ

    If they are able to do it accurately, knowledge is power; it is lucky there is an internet because, the labels won’t be big enough to hold the information.

  • Max

    How many people actually read the federal dietary guidelines let alone follow them?

  • Gary F

    Who enforces it? Who makes the subjective decisions on what does and doesn’t comply? The cost of food will go up, so poorer people will still be stuck with poor food choices while the rich feel good about paying more. Sounds like more layers of unaccountable government to me.