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Right decision on dietary guidelines, say farmers

13 December 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the decision by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to remove the criteria of environmental sustainability from the dietary guidelines released today.

NFF President Jock Laurie said the removal of the environmental sustainability criteria from the guidelines was a win for common sense.

“We support healthy eating and the development of dietary guidelines, as long as they are based on nutrition and diet needs or health concerns, not on environmental sustainability,” Mr Laurie said.

“While environmental sustainability is obviously critically important to farmers and to agriculture, we don’t believe it is the right criteria on which to base decisions about what we eat. There are already many guidelines that determine the best way for agriculture to produce food for the future.

“The initial version of guidelines released earlier this year had capped the recommended consumption levels of our produce – things like red meat, pork, fish and dairy – not on their nutritional value, but rather on their perceived lack of environmental sustainability.

“For instance, the draft dietary guidelines had limited the consumption of fish based on overfishing of wild fish stocks, but hadn’t taken into account fish farmed in environmentally friendly, sustainable fish farms or new management regimes for wild fishing.

“Our concern with this was that while the NHMRC may well have had the best of intentions in originally including the environmental sustainability criteria; there is very little information available on which such criteria can be accurately based.

“The NFF has worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to ensure the NHMRC understands that there is a huge amount of variability between different industries and different production systems as to what constitutes ‘sustainable’ production, and that the data around this has to date proved inconsistent, inconclusive or irrelevant to Australian agriculture.

“The guidelines released today have recommended that the average adult consumption of some foods, namely red meat, be reduced on the basis of nutritional value or health concerns. We believe it is up to the individual to take responsibility for their own diet and lifestyle in making food choices, based on expert advice.

“Importantly, our farmers will continue to grow world leading produce, renowned for being fresh, affordable and disease free, so that consumers can make the choices that are right for them and their families,” Mr Laurie said.

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