11. All states shall incorporate environmental considerations in developing national dietary food guides

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A) Rapporteur: Danny Harvey

A continuous, increasing shift to plant-based diets over time would confer multiple environmental and health benefits, and is a pre-requisite to longterm sustainability, but can only be expected to occur as part of a broader and gradual process of social and environmental enlightenment. Incorporation of environmental consideration in national dietary food guides would lead to a greater emphasis on plant-based foods, in turn influencing dietary decisions and contributing to this long term transition.

B) Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

National food guides are a current manifestation of a discussion that has gone on since prehistoric times, for almost all of us hold strong convictions about what to eat. (The Greek geometer Pythagoras admonished his followers never to eat beans.) For a potentially helpful food guide, see the 2019 Canadian list(1), which recommends: “Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.”

This official promotion of plant foods reflects the well-founded new emphasis on the effects of dietary choices on the environment. Such a concise list is all the advice that most people need in order to make responsible food choices. If, however, you want to look more deeply into the grounds for choosing particular foods, you will find a complex set of considerations, not all of which yield compatible recommendations.

Dietary choices have far-reaching impacts on our physical and ecological environment, health, economy, cultural traditions and the use of water, energy, and land. Much depends on the technologies that are used to produce the food and bring it to the dinner table. Fortunately, greater efficiencies are being invented that can enable most producers to conserve all these resources. For example, where a farm’s soil is being blown or washed away, or where its waterways are being polluted and eutrophying from the use of chemical fertilizers, the farmers can simply adopt such innovations as no-till agriculture, biochar, composts, and other organic farming practices. Food producers and retailers can adopt numerous simple, achievable solutions at many phases in the supply chain of their product.

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Footnotes for this article can be seen at the Footnotes 2 page on this website (link will open in a new page).

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Adam Wynne

In the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century, the United States (among other nations) used arsenic and lead based pesticides in agricultural contexts. Arsenic was additionally used to make green paint at this time. I wonder what the legacy of this trend is on environmental health. Could this be impacting bees and/or human health? It is unclear to me how long the compounds stay in the soil – though even the subsequent generations of pesticide chemicals were toxic too. “In the early 20th century – enthusiastically supported by the U.S. government – the most popular pesticides were arsenic compounds. How popular?… Read more »

Adam Wynne

China allegedly continued using arsenic-based pesticides until the early 2000s.

Adam Wynne

“By the 1920s, U.S. fruit growers were plastering on lead arsenate in such amounts that they were starting to poison their customers. In 1919, the Boston Health Department destroyed arsenic contaminated apples because people were getting sick. The follow year, it had to do it again. In 1919, California health officials discovered with alarm that arsenic residues tended to stick to fruit, meaning the poison was hard to remove. A historyfrom Washington State University notes, however, that until the DDT era farmers continued to use the compounds because they were the most effective. That report also notes that arsenic tends… Read more »

How do the big corporate powers get to damage the environment this way.
Pesticides in our Food
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Adam Wynne

Environmental considerations is a rather broad category in this circumstance. I am particularly curious around this in relation to remote areas – such as the South Pacific states. A number of these areas have exceptionally poor nutrition statistics, with high rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, etc. From my understanding – many of these issues arose in the post-war era with the increasing urbanization of these islands. Additionally, salinization of fresh water sources – through climate change – results in limited arable land to grow traditional crops like breadfruit and taro. Of course importing food to remote areas will… Read more »

Sharon Kirkey

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Got milk? Not so much. Health Canada’s new food guide drops ‘milk and alternatives’ and favours plant-based protein
Sharon Kirkey
January 22, 2019
Canada’s new food guide, the first update in more than a decade, recommends fruits and vegetables make up half our plates at any meal. . . Drink water. Go light on the animal products. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice is liquid sugar, not fruit. Avoid processed foods. Limit booze.. . .

Howard Wells

Are we still supposed to eat eggs? They are animal protein, but they don’t create as much greenhouse gas as beef, for example.

Beverly Anderson

Howard, we should ask a vegan. They are presumably setting the standards for the rest of us to follow. I think Bill Clinton is a vegan now, isn’t he? Do vegans eat eggs?

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What’s the future of meat? This vegetarian meal looks delicious but where’s the protein?