(News & Observer) In "Six Arguments for a Greener Diet," Michael Jacobson, director of the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest, looks at the evidence linking diet, health, and environment, as well as food and agriculture policies and animal welfare.
He advocates a "greener" diet centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans, and less emphasis on animal products.
Among his reasons for "going green" with your diet:
* You'll lower your risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes and be healthier overall. According to Jacobson, the saturated fat and cholesterol in beef, pork, dairy products, poultry and eggs cause more than 63,000 fatal heart attacks each year.
* You'll lessen your chance of foodborne illness. Animal products carry most of the bacteria and viruses that cause life-threatening foodborne infections, and factory-farms increase the risk of flu epidemics.
The government's food safety system is "perpetually underfunded and riddled with holes," he points out.
* You'll help preserve the soil. Feed crops for livestock deplete topsoil and cause erosion. Half of the fertilizer produced in the U.S. is used on crops fed to livestock, and the energy used to make the fertilizer could otherwise provide power for one million Americans every year, Jacobson says.
* Eating green would result in more and cleaner water. Jacobson notes that agriculture uses about 80 percent of the freshwater in the U.S., and fertilizers, antibiotics, pesticides, manure, and soil from eroded land pollute the water.
* Green food equals cleaner air. Livestock manure and fertilizer are the largest sources of noxious ammonia releases. Methane gas produced by livestock and manure in the year 2000 contributed as much to global warming as the carbon dioxide produced by 33 million cars.
* A green diet is a kinder diet. While the book doesn't push a vegetarian diet for everyone, it does make the case for policies and practices that would reduce the suffering of animals raised for food.
It ends with recommendations for individuals who want to change their diets as well as suggestions for government policies that would support a greener national lifestyle.