The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Stephanie Feldstein, (734) 395-0770

Environment, Public Health Advocates Urge Government to Adopt Less Meat, More Plants in American Diet


More than 100 environmental and public health organizations sent an open letter today urging Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to adopt sustainability recommendations calling for less meat and more plant-based foods in the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

My Plate, My Planet

The letter will appear as a full-page advertisement in three major news outlets today --The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico -- as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture prepare to hear public testimony on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

"People and the planet will be healthier if there's less meat and more plant-based foods on our plates. Our diets, particularly the meat-heavy American diet, have a huge environmental footprint that not only threatens biodiversity but also our ability to continue producing healthy, nutritious food today and in the future," said Stephanie Feldstein, director of the population and sustainability program at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Now it's up to secretaries Burwell and Vilsack to make sure the final guidelines are written to promote the health of Americans, not industry."

The guidelines are a government-approved blueprint for healthy diets and are widely used in nutrition education programs and to set the meal plans for government institutions, including schools, prisons, military facilities and federal cafeterias.

These new recommendations mark the first time that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has included sustainability considerations in its report, writing that, "Linking health, dietary guidance, and the environment will promote human health and the sustainability of natural resources and ensure current and long-term food security."

Signatories on the open letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, NRDC, Sierra Club Climate Reality Project, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Pesticide Action Network North America, Union of Concerned Scientists and National WIC Association. These organizations have been joined by more than 30 prominent individuals including Kathleen Merrigan, former Assistant Secretary of USDA, Dr. Dean Ornish, Bill Ripple, Marion Nestle, James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron, Eric Schlosser, Bill McKibben, Chef Tom Colicchio and Frances Moore Lappe.

The full list of signatories -- along with instructions encouraging members of the public to join the effort by submitting their own comments in support of sustainable dietary guidelines -- is available at the My Plate, My Planet: Food for A Sustainable America website.

"The importance of eating less meat and more plant-based foods for our own health and the health of the planet is backed up by the science," said Feldstein. "It's clear that sustainability is a growing concern among Americans, and the dietary guidelines risk irrelevance if they don't address these issues."

A petition organized by the Center for Biological Diversity, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Friends of the Earth and Healthy Food Action -- and joined by several other top environmental and public health groups -- has already gained more than 120,000 signatures from Americans asking secretaries Burwell and Vilsack to support sustainability recommendations in the final dietary guidelines.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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