The World Around Us

Justin Trudeau has promised a national food policy. A few years ago I wrote a column (which I am afraid may have been prophetic) on this subject, ending: “if we ask for a national food policy, we should be careful what we ask for. We might get something even worse than the current muddle.”

Listening to all the comments on the recent pipeline approvals, I was struck by the breathtaking illogic of Trudeau’s rationale that we need to continue destroying the land to make enough money to save it. He went on to use the bandwagon fallacy, which roughly translates to “everybody’s doing it so it must be OK”, saying, “Show me a country with major energy resources which is not extracting them”.

Greg Meredith, an assistant deputy minister at Agriculture Canada, will chair the federal committee on food policy, dealing with the often conflicting interests of food growers, processors, retailers, health advocates and, let us not forget, eaters. The committee will focus on food security, the environment, sustainable growth in the food and agriculture sector, and health. It is unlikely that subordinating the above interests to shoring up an entrenched and predatory economic system fixated on maximisation of profits will produce the bold and innovative policy goals we need.

It’s not as if we don’t have reputable academics explaining that radical changes are required.
Evan Fraser of Guelph University, who holds the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and is a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, says, “we cannot continue to repeat the mistakes of the last 50 years where we have allowed industrial monocultures that depend on fossil fuel to dominate our croplands.” Interesting to place increased pipelines for fossil fuel extraction beside that statement. Helpfully, he lists that we need to: develop locally appropriate solutions to local problems; find better ways of distributing the food we already produce; abandon the ‘‘just enough just in time’ food system and store food close to vulnerable communities; encourage farmers to use practices that conserve soil, water and energy; and establish more robust and sovereign local food systems that are biologically diverse.

John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri, an expert on sustainable agriculture and sustainable economics, points out what should be obvious: “if we destroy the productivity of nature and civility of society, we can’t sustain our economy or any level of living remotely comparable to our current way of life”.  When he says that “large, publicly-traded corporations that increasingly control agriculture are not real people; they are purely economic organizations that have no capacity for social or ethical values”, he has put his finger on the fatal flaw in the economic system that our politicians and bureaucrats keep perpetuating.

Canada needs less propaganda for global corporate systems incapable of achieving the ecological and social balance we desperately need and a major overhaul of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which is altogether too cosy with the corporations selling the junk food creating the diabetes and obesity epidemics in our country.

Marjorie Stewart
Marjorie Stewart is past chair of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at: email hidden; JavaScript is required.

This article was originally posted in the Nanaimo Bulletin.