Talk about an environmental oversight.
A new study shows that if everyone in the world were to follow American dietary guidelines, there would not be enough land on the planet to provide the food required.

Talk about an environmental oversight.

The University of Guelph found that Earth is just shy a Canada-sized chunk of farmland in order to give everyone in the world the best diet according to U.S. research. The study, published on PLOS ONE, concludes that our current farming practices simply cannot support that kind of food consumption.

"It is unsustainable," said lead study author Madhur Anand, professor of environmental sciences and director of the Global Ecological Change and Sustainability lab at the University of Guelph.

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Researchers acknowledge how the current U.S. nutritional recommendations are an improvement over its predecessor, the long-upheld food pyramid, both in promoting health and less land-intensive food production. But it's not enough. Global land use has not been prioritized in developing these dietary guidelines, even though U.S. food production relies on imports from others countries.

Researchers found a strong division worldwide on the effects of eating per U.S. recommendations. Most Western Hemisphere countries would use less land if its consumers adopted the U.S. dietary guidelines. However, most Eastern Hemisphere nations would use more land with the same diet as they would need to add in more dairy, meat, fruit, and grain production.

"We need to look at diet, not just as an individual health issue but as an ecosystem health issue," Anand said.

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The results from this study point to a need to balance healthy eating with agricultural sustainability, and move away from traditional food production systems that don't take into account the rest of the world beyond the U.S. borders. Our planet's land area is a limited resource, while our global population continues to explode.

Among the farming systems showing promise in reducing land use is hydroponics, which involves growing plants in a nutrient-rich water system that doesn't require soil. This farming system allows crops of mainly vegetables to be grown in places where large-scale agriculture wouldn't otherwise be possible, such as in cities. Some producers take this a step further in aquaponics by combining fish farming with vegetable growing. The amount of food that can be produced in such a small area is astounding!

As a global leader, the U.S. has a higher calling in being considerate for our planet's health as well as our own. Creating dietary guidelines that would require land area of at least the size of Canada is as irresponsible as impractical. Maybe the next revision of the U.S. nutritional recommendations will reflect this.

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