WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national nonprofit health advocacy group, applauds U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts for introducing the Peas, Legumes, and Nuts Today (PLANT) Act, which would help ensure that U.S. Department of Agriculture programs support farmers and companies producing plant-based foods.
The PLANT Act, introduced on July 28, would establish the Office of Plant-Based Foods and Innovative Production at the USDA; increase USDA incentives for farmers producing ingredients in plant-based foods, such as pulses and mushrooms; create a new plant-based protein research program within the USDA; and create a Plant Protein Innovation Initiative to direct technical assistance and grants to businesses.
In addition to benefiting famers, the PLANT Act will increase consumer choice for the many Americans that are already dedicated to a plant-based lifestyle and those interested in adding more plant-based foods to their diet.
“Helping farmers to provide Americans more protein from beans and other plant sources instead of animal products could save countless lives from heart disease and other diet-related conditions,” says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “I applaud Rep. Jim McGovern for introducing the PLANT Act and encourage any legislator who wants to help save lives and improve the livelihood of farmers to co-sponsor this bill.”
Research shows the health benefits of replacing animal protein with plant protein for conditions including heart disease and cancer, which cost the nation billions each year. A study published in 2020 found that replacing red meat with plant proteins such as beans, nuts, or soy may be associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Another recent study found that eating plant-based protein from sources such as bread, cereal, and pasta instead of animal protein reduced the risk of death from heart disease by up to 12%. Other research has shown that plant-based protein also reduces risk of early death from any cause.
Federal promotion of plant-based diets would also benefit the environment. A recent study found that, compared to a meat-based diet, a vegan diet resulted in 75% less greenhouse gas emissions, 75% less land use, 66% less biodiversity loss, and 54% less water use.
Research also shows that swapping beef for beans could help the United States reach targeted greenhouse gas emission reductions. Researchers compared simulated net emissions of legume production, subtracted those from average beef production rates, and used U.S. reduction goals for 2020 as a reference. Based on the results, legume substitution could account for 46-74% of the required reductions.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.