Last Sunday, we lost former US Senator George McGovern. Although many will recall his disastrous 1972 loss to Richard Nixon and his subsequent leadership in getting us out of Vietnam, his truly lasting legacy will be his war on hunger and malnutrition.
In 1977, following extensive public hearings, McGovern’s Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published “Dietary Goals for the United States,” a precursor to today’s Dietary Guidelines. It marked the first time that a US government document recommended reduced meat consumption.
The meat industry forced the committee to destroy all copies of the report and to remove the offending recommendation from a new edition. It then abolished the committee, voted McGovern out of office, and warned government bureaucrats never to challenge meat consumption again (“Food Politics” by Marion Nestle, 2007).
Yet, after 35 years of studies linking meat consumption with elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other killer diseases, the MyPlate icon, representing USDA’s current dietary guidelines for Americans, recommends vegetables, fruits, and grains, but never mentions meat, and shunts dairy off to one side (www.choosemyplate.gov/).
And it all started with one brave senator from South Dakota.