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Originally published October 7 2015

USDA submits to meat industry; retracts advice urging Americans to consider sustainability, eat healthier

by Daniel Barker

(NaturalNews) This news is the type that could make ordinary readers cynical. In this story, there are no good guys, only bad ones — sellouts with compromised integrity, more specifically.

On the one hand, you have agricultural giants that prefer to pursue profits at the expense of human health and sustainability. On the other, you have bureaucrats who are either nearly overstepping their boundaries (even if ostensibly in the interests of the public) or caving in to pressure from lobbyists and special interest groups.

Here are the details: The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) have just released a joint statement saying that they will not "include the goal of sustainability as a factor in developing dietary guidelines" for the year 2015.

Initially, there have been plans to incorporate a federal panel's sustainability recommendations into the guidelines.

From The Washington Free Beacon:

"The inclusion led to a call for Americans to eat less meat to lower carbon footprints when their report of recommendations was sent to HHS and USDA this February.

"The report received nearly 30,000 comments during the public comment period, which had to be extended after members of Congress voiced concern that the committee had 'greatly exceeded their scope in developing recommendations' by adding sustainability."

Untangling the issues at hand

Here's where it gets tricky. Many of the comments and direct lobbying efforts against the inclusion came from agricultural organizations, such as the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), and various other smaller statewide associations, such as the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

All of these special interest groups obviously had something to lose if the original sustainability factors were to be included in the 2015 guidelines.

However, NAMI and some members of Congress did raise a valid point: Should the guidelines — which are essentially concerned with just diet and health — contain anything about sustainability? After all, these are two different subjects. As the joint statement of the HHS and USDA admits, it is not their belief that "the 2015 DGAs are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability."

Even though they have flip-flopped on the subject based on pressure from the agricultural industry, I grudgingly agree with that final decision.

Nevertheless, despite my agreement, I do believe that sustainability in terms of our food supply, as well as the use of vast amounts of natural resources to produce meat for our current dietary habits, should be carefully studied and considered.

This doesn't mean, however, that the nanny state or the agricultural giants should be the ones to make these decisions for us.

Our personal responsibility

Neither the government-recommended dietary guidelines (whether based on sustainability factors or not) nor the lobbying campaigns mounted by Big Ag have the power to significantly affect our personal dietary choices, unless we let them.

As far as I'm concerned, the real responsibility is up to the individual. A meat-heavy diet is not only bad for the planet, but for human health as well. There are plenty of news reports and evidence to back that up.

I encourage individuals to do their own research and come to their own conclusions regarding healthy diets and sustainability. If you let the government or big corporations make these decisions for you, then you only have yourself to blame.


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