Healing Gaia

This October, Vote for Food Security

Without a national food policy, the federal government cannot adequately address health, education, economic and environmental issues as they pertain to food insecurity, hunger, unhealthy diets, poverty, unsustainable food production, and climate change.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published August 26, 2015

Canada doesn't have a national food policy. Without one, the federal government cannot adequately address health, education, economic and environmental issues as they pertain to food insecurity, hunger, unhealthy diets, poverty, unsustainable food production, and climate change.

The Green Party released a comprehensive document called [Agriculture and Food. When read in conjunction with their policy on Genetically Engineered Organisms, it's a sensible plan that is easily implemented.

The Green Party's correct in believing that strong national leadership is required to promote agricultural sustainability, improve energy efficiency and support farm families. Promoting genetic diversification and eating locally is their means to stabilizing Canada's food economy without expensive government subsidies. They believe building soil capacity, encouraging economic diversity, reducing farm debt, and increasing the number of young farmers will move Canada toward self-sufficiency.

Canadians will benefit from improved food safety regulations that will increase inspection and monitoring while removing conflicts of interest within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Green Party plan also encourages a reduction in the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth hormones, non-therapeutic antibiotics, and insecticides throughout the growing and production processes.

The Greens will make it easier for Canadians to make healthier choices by labelling sodium, sugar, and trans fats; regulating the amount of trans fats in foods; removing tax deductibility from junk food advertising for children; implementing a manufacturer's levy on sugary drinks and using the funds to promote healthy living initiatives.

Establishing federally funded, community-guided school lunch programs will nourish body and mind while teaching healthy eating habits using local ingredients.

The Harper government has been shirking its responsibility to pass legislation that would protect Canadian farmers. The Green Party has taken up the challenge by creating a policy that bans the patenting of life forms, outlaws the use of terminator technologies, and ensures that producers of genetically engineered crops are liable for any damage those crops cause.

These measures will ensure that in the future, cases like Percy Schmeiser's will have a much different outcome and one that favours farmers over corporations.

The Green Party will uphold farmers' rights to remain independent, self-sufficient entrepreneurs. There is clear and definite support for strengthening the Canadian Organic Standard and providing transitional assistance to farmers converting to organic practices.

The Green Party will protect the right of farmers to save their own seed while simultaneously promoting heritage seed banks and seed exchange programs. Family farm viability and food sovereignty is maintained by ensuring new plant cultivars and animal breeds remain in the public domain.

Changing government's role from one that supports biotechnology and energy-intensive farming to one that promotes organic food production with an emphasis on publicly-funded research into organic farming techniques will ensure food security within our borders.

Ending the loss of agricultural land to development and supporting environmental stewardship are integral parts of this well-rounded policy. Overall, a well thought out plan to ensure food security and safety for Canadians.

Everybody Eats is the NDP vision for a pan-Canadian food strategy. The NDP position on food security and safety is very similar to the Green Party's.

Investing in rural communities to ensure the next generation of farmers has access to land and capital; re-localizing food production and processing; reducing farmer input costs by ensuring the right to save seed; protecting agricultural biodiversity through heritage seeds and breeds; and ensuring plant varieties remain in the public domain after the expiration of breeders' rights are part of the shared vision.

The NDP is promoting sustainable farming practices that are environmentally friendly and adaptable to climate-induced weather changes. This includes supporting the organic sector which has been experiencing growing consumer interest for the past few decades. They will also provide stable, long-term funding and continued support for research in the public interest.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be audited in order to make changes to ensure that food safety decisions are made in the public interest. Marketing boards will be supported. Rail transportation and tariffs will be reviewed to ensure fair and efficient treatment for all producers and the safe delivery of goods.

Improved labelling standards will mean consumers will be able to make better informed food choices based on the treatment of animals; the origin of food and food products; genetically modified ingredients and foods; improved nutrition labelling. The NDP will improve public education and literacy around information on food labels as well as phasing in nutrition information on menus at major restaurant chains.

In addition, the NDP have included strategies that would ensure the fair treatment of agriculture and agri-food workers. Temporary foreign workers would have a means to obtain citizenship.

The NDP policy addresses the need to decrease inter-provincial/territorial barriers to trade. It also supports promoting Canadian products internationally while encouraging global food security.

The NDP will introduce a national school nutrition program and will work with provinces and territories to ensure that healthy food is accessible to infants, children, expectant mothers, hospital patients, and long-term care residents.

Reducing food waste from farm to fork is a timely addition to this in-depth food policy.

Everybody Eats takes food policy one step further by addressing the issue of poverty. Increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors would ensure retirees could afford to make heathy food choices. Improved incomes and supports for working families would reduce reliance on food banks. Making healthy and culturally appropriate foods more accessible in Northern Canada, on reserves and in remote communities would reduce food insecurity instead of making it a way of life.

At the time of writing, the Liberal party has not released a food or agricultural policy. A New Plan for Canada's Environment and Economy was the Liberal document that made mention of agriculture in the context of a list of sectors set to share $200 million annually towards clean energy and innovation initiatives. Few details were given and the link to the document is currently unresponsive.

The Conservatives have no national food policy. They do have a two page agricultural policy contained in Sections 114 to 117 of their Policy Declaration. The Harper government views agriculture as an industry that's key the Canadian economy.

Farmers are business operators and "to dictate policy which might have an adverse effect on this business community would have negative consequences and go against Conservative Party principles."

Beyond stating that Canada should be amongst the best in world when it comes to food safety and encouraging measures to ensure accurate labelling and more rigorous testing of imported foods, there is a dearth of information detailing of how any of this should be accomplished.

The document is bereft of detail on how Canada will become self-sufficient in food production other than stating that long-term agricultural production must be economically and environmentally sustainable. Individual farmers are left to deal with changing market conditions and to manage the risks of weather and disease.

The federal government sees its role as seeking out bilateral and multi-lateral trade agreements to improve market access for Canadian agricultural products and reduce foreign subsidies.

Four million Canadians live with food insecurity. Over one million of these are children. We need a federal government that will create, adopt and implement a national food policy to ensure all Canadians have access to adequate amounts of healthy, culturally appropriate, affordable food that has been grown and prepared in an environmentally sustainable way by local family farmers and processors.

On October 19, vote for a party that will ensure no one in Canada goes hungry.

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.


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