Republicans in the House of Representatives are taking aim at the USDA, claiming that the agency’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is letting political agenda affect its official position on American health. More specifically, they accuse the DGAC of offering outdated guidelines on red meat consumption in an attempt to conflate nutrition and environmental concerns. And that accusation is hard to refute, considering that the DGAC said as much in their 2015 report.
According to the report, environmental sustainability should be part of any official recommendations on nutrition. There is “compatibility and overlap,” claims the DGAC, between what is best for dietary health and what is best for the environment. They argue that by reducing our reliance on animal-based foods, we embrace a way of eating that is “more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet.”
Republicans feel this is a bridge too far. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – signed by 71 House lawmakers – they say that the DGAC has abandoned its responsibility to provide sound nutritional information based on the latest science. In a written statement, Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota clarified his position:
I am asking the same question thousands of school kids in North Dakota and across America will be asking: “Where’s the Beef?” Sacrificing sound science and denying the nutritional benefits of lean red meat to satisfy an extreme environmental agenda is woefully misguided.
Does it really need to be said? Do we really need to have a debate over whether or not the environmentalists should be allowed to creep into our national nutrition standards? What’s next? Will the DGAC only promote foods that comply with sharia law? Perhaps we will be discouraged from eating crops grown in states that have unfriendly LGBT laws.
We need to go a step further, though, and question whether or not we really need the federal government to dispense nutritional advice at all. It has been demonstrated over the years how slow the government is in adopting the newest scientific information, and it has also been shown how corporate lobbyists can affect the final draft. These guidelines are swayed as much by money and politics as they are by nutritional science, and that’s reason enough to ignore them altogether. This flap about red meat and the environment is just another sign that Americans are better off without federal intrusion.
Furthermore, these guidelines give lawmakers the excuse they need to go a lot further than mere recommendations. It is because they exist that politicians feel empowered to sign off on industry-killing regulations, sin taxes, outright bans, and programs like Michelle Obama’s school lunch initiative. Best to nip it in the bud. Politicians shouldn’t be in charge of telling Americans what to eat. There may have been a time and a place for the federal government to play that role, but in the age of information, it’s a relic from another time. If abolishing this committee saves the taxpayers some money, well, hopefully that money will be put to good use.
I’m thinking a delicious steak dinner…