WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today released an analysis of the dietary guidelines of the G20 countries that found the United States has fallen behind in including sustainability.
Today’s analysis found that most G20 nations include sustainability goals and recommendations to reduce meat and/or increase plant-based foods. But the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, also known as the DGA, does not consider dietary impacts on the environment or recommend reduced meat consumption, though animal agriculture is a major driver of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“This is a huge hole in our dietary guidelines, since nutrition policies greatly influence the food we eat and are deeply connected to environmental emergencies,” said Mark Rifkin, senior food and agriculture policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Animal agriculture sucks up water, pollutes the land, hurts public health and helps drive the climate crisis. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans needs to reflect how damaging animal agriculture is.”
The G20, or Group of 20, is an intergovernmental forum made up of 19 countries and the European Union.
Today’s analysis looked at those G20 dietary guidelines that have been updated in the past 10 years. It found that 80% discuss the impacts of dietary patterns on the environment and more than 70% call for limits on red meat consumption, though the U.S. DGA does neither.
Eighty-five percent of the countries — including the United States — recommend plant-based diets or increasing consumption of plant protein like beans. Though the U.S. guidelines make this recommendation, it’s for nutrition and health reasons only, ignoring the positive environmental effects of eating more plant-based foods.
“Food policy can help solve the environmental and public health crises we face,” said Rifkin. “The United States needs to follow the lead of other G20 countries and prioritize sustainability in our dietary guidelines. We don’t have time to waste.”
While G20 nations have taken the lead, fewer than half of national dietary guidelines around the world include environmental sustainability. But that number has been rapidly growing over the past 10 years, with an increase in recommendations to reduce meat consumption and an emphasis on plant-based diets. Aligning dietary guidelines with sustainability goals is particularly important in G20 countries, where the current per capita consumption of meat and dairy is higher than the global average.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is currently going through the 2025-2030 revision process. Despite earlier commitments to include sustainability in the DGA, the responsible agencies have backed off this promise, preferring instead to study pathways for inclusion sometime in the future.