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Appendix to the Australian Dietary Guidelines: Dietary Guidelines through an environmental lens submission

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AUSVEG Submission


Public Consultation on draft Appendix to the Australian Dietary Guidelines: Dietary Guidelines through an environmental lens

Closing date: Friday 2 November 2012, 5.00pm


AUSVEG, the National Peak Industry Body for Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers, has reviewed the ‘Appendix to the Australian Dietary Guidelines: Dietary Guidelines through an environmental lens’.  Overall, AUSVEG supports the Appendix and has a specifically strong endorsement of the recommendation to increase vegetable consumption in Guideline 2.

There is one revision, however, that AUSVEG would like to recommend in regards to Section G5 which relates to the environmental burden of vegetable production. Although the section states the vegetable industry creates a comparatively low environmental burden, there is no further explanation of the significantly smaller water usage the industry utilises compared to other agricultural sectors.

Further explanations of the two areas of interest for AUSVEG are listed below.


SECTION G3: The Guidelines through an environmental lens

“Guideline 2: Plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans... Choose a variety of seasonal and local fresh fruit and vegetables to reduce environmental impact. Fruit and vegetables do not need to be perfectly shaped nor unmarked to provide nutritional value.”

AUSVEG supports the abovementioned Dietary Guideline 2, as it is important to encourage consumers to not only buy local product but also choose product that is in season. In effect, it is hoped that an increase in consumption of local in-season produce will reduce Australia’s reliance on imported produce.   


SECTION: G5 Key reference - Vegetables:

“Overall the limited evidence suggests that vegetable production creates a comparatively low environmental burden compared to other food groups, see reference1045 regarding emissions. Water use is covered by references.1046–1053

Within the the Vegetables section of G5 outlined above, there is no indication of the comparison of water usage compared to other food groups. AUSVEG has recently highlighted a study (http://www.waterfootprint.org/ )  from the University of Twente, Netherlands, which compared the amount of water required to produce a kilogram of different types of food. The results showed that vegetables significantly outperform other agricultural products in relation to water usage for production, with vegetables only requiring 322 litres of water on average to produce a kilogram of food. In comparison, animal products were much more water-intensive, with 3265 litres required to produce a kilogram of eggs and 5553 litres to produce that same kilogram in butter. These findings have shown that a kilogram of vegetables is 10 times as water efficient as a kilogram of eggs and 47 times as efficient as a kilogram of beef.

This research from the Netherlands, which shows that vegetable production uses significantly less water than other agricultural industries, is validated by Australian research completed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the publication Experimental Estimates of the Gross Value of Irrigated Agricultural Production, 2000-01 - 2007-0 (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mediareleasesbyCatalogue/274C951FAFAB7DF5CA257956000E712F?OpenDocument)[1].  This study completed by the ABS, states the value of production per megalitre of water used in vegetable production was $6,901 in 2007-08, compared to the average of all agricultural industries of $1,959.


Recommendation: AUSVEG recommends that a summary of the aforementioned information and cited references be included within section G5 Key references- Vegetables, to highlight that water usage in vegetable production is significantly less than other agricultural industries. This will inform consumers that choosing to eat more vegetables in their diets is not only good for their health and for the growers of Australia, but it is also an environmentally friendly food choice.

Page reviewed: 4 February, 2013