One of the myths of government is that our rulers can get experts together to hammer out a scientific consensus. But rulers are arrogant and are at least as likely to hold onto a bundle of prejudices as anyone else. They stack the committees to confirm those prejudices. Ultimately, they usually manage to control enough funding to research that they can ensure there are no experts who refuse to conform to the fad of the day.
Thus, Gless G. Lammi writes at Forbes, “Advisory Committee’s Violations Of Federal Law Threaten Credibility Of 2015 Dietary Guidelines.”
Congress adopted FACA [Federal Advisory Committee Act] in 1972 to ensure that “standards and uniform procedures” would “govern the establishment, operation, administration, and duration of advisory committees.” Section 5 of FACA requires that all federal advisory committees be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee.” In adopting the “fairly balanced” requirement, Congress emphasized the need “to ensure that persons or groups directly affected by the work of a particular advisory committee would have some representation on the committee.”* Otherwise, committees could fall victim to the type of “groupthink” that corrodes open discussion and produces flawed, thinly reasoned recommendations.
The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services failed to comply with these requirements in forming the DGAC. The committee was homogeneously academic. WLF is not alone in raising this lack of diversity. One member of the 2010 DGAC noted, “The flavor [of the committee] was quite evident based on the consultants the DGAC brought on board . . . there was not a balance of presentation. We did not have an adequate amount of agriculture input, nobody on the committee was a food scientist or had been trained in food science, nobody had a background in food law.” Another 2010 DGAC member was equally critical, explaining, “When policy recommendations are developed by committees, such as the DGAC, those committees should be comprised of a balanced and well-rounded set of perspectives and expertise.”
The 2015 DGAC was also sorely lacking in fair balance of “the points of view represented.” As a 2005 DGAC member told reporters after the release of the 2015 Scientific Report, “They [USDA and HHS] selected members who would think more about policy . . . because few of them were card-carrying nutrition or food scientists and they must have had a particular idea in mind . . . otherwise why would they have chosen them?” Prior to their appointment, numerous DGAC members publicly embraced and advanced government activism as the preferred cure to obesity in America. WLF’s comments on the DGAC Scientific Report detail some of these perspectives.
The part of the law that demands impartiality is practically unenforceable. Committees simply do what the want and then assert their “conclusions” are science. Sometimes, they have to admit they were wrong, but those admissions don’t happen often and they take a long time.
No wonder that Liberals defend secret science where various agencies release reports and regulations but don’t bother to reveal to the public the alleged basis for their decisions.
I expect the dietary guidelines will continue to push us toward vegetarianism despite our omnivore biology.