In this day and age it seems no matter how noble the cause, it is soon taken overtaken by politics. And even if politics aren’t necessarily involved, someone usually finds a way to introduce politics into the situation, including our dietary guidelines.
A piece was put out from public health and sustainability experts from George Washington and Tufts Universities stating that sustainability considerations must be included when forming the new Dietary Guidelines for Americas (DGA). The request was met with scrutiny, particularly by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and their Chairman, K. Michael Conaway, who believed that the recommendations commented on “wider policy issues” and exceed the group’s scope. The group denied the Conaway’s statement and also remarked that the previous DGA stated nothing about sustainability — something they felt should be included.
What do the experts mean when they say sustainability? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ definition is:
Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.
So where does politics come into the issue of sustainability in the DGA?
• Industry leaders feel under attack and believe sustainability evaluations may lead to future regulation
• Sustainability has the potential to change the current food-groups guidance to one that focuses on specific foods in food groups
• New political coalitions may form that further tip the balance in favor of sustainability, particularly when drafting future dietary guidelines
• Sustainability considerations may sanction and elevate the importance of sustainable diets, opening the government up to greater demands for sustainability investments and telling consumers that such foods are preferred
These factors don’t necessarily scream politics. However, when you consider that they will impact members of the military, 8.6 million Women, Infants and Children program participants, and 31 million children served through the National School Lunch Program, the effects of these recommendations can become rather extensive.