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The Importance of a Food Policy Based on Science

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John Jamieson

John Jamieson

President & CEO, The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity

Canada’s food security depends on a sound food policy that supports diversity within our food system.

Canada is in the enviable position of being able to produce enough food to largely feed our citizens and export our surplus, but less than one percent of the population is involved in primary production — 250,000 people create food for 38 million people. The only way we manage to do that is through a sound food policy based on science that supports diversity within our food system. We must remain cognizant of any changes government makes to our national food policy because their effects will ultimately be felt by every Canadian.

Food security means having dependable access to an adequate supply of safe and nutritious food at a reasonable cost. Food sovereignty is the ability of a country to provide a substantial amount of the food required by its citizens. We have both and we cannot take either for granted. We’ve seen how climate change and the war in Ukraine have impacted food security and sovereignty.

The best way to support both is to make the best use of the technologies that are available to us and to maintain diversity in our food system: small producers, medium-sized farmers, large farms, a variety of crops and livestock, and different modes of production, including a mix of conventional and organic farms. That diversity helps protect us against catastrophe because it allows us to adapt while producing a variety of products for ourselves and for export.

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In Canada’s climate plan, the government proposes to reduce emissions from synthetic fertilizers to 30 percent below 2020 levels. We must ensure that the plan has input from stakeholders, is science-based, and takes food security and sovereignty into consideration.

A country like Canada that’s rich in the diversity of its agriculture has a moral authority to not only feed itself but to help feed the world.

There are lessons we can all learn from the failed recent Sri Lankan food policy. In 2020, the Sri Lankan government made a decision to move immediately to organic food production, banning synthetic fertilizers. Within a year, crop yield plummeted, Sri Lanka was forced to import hundreds of millions of dollars worth of their former national crop, rice, and the country lost an entire middle class to poverty. Theirs was not a failure of organic production, but a failure to plan and recognize how policies can impact people, and that’s what we need to be conscious of in Canada.

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A good food policy is based on credible information. We’re reliant on the top 12 inches of Canadian soil to produce food for ourselves and for people around the world. The world’s population is nearing eight billion and growing. We need to think about how we can balance sustainability with the ability to produce as much food as possible on an acre of land. Being efficient allows that much more land left for wildlife habitats and recreational and residential uses.

A country like Canada that’s rich in the diversity of its agriculture has a moral authority to not only feed itself but to help feed the world. We’re on the right path to improved sustainability and we’ll stay on course if everyone is cognizant of what we want to achieve, and that is the diversity that supports food security and food sovereignty. 

It’s Good Canada is an initiative of the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. It highlights the work of everyone involved in Canada’s food system and shows that our food system is designed to ensure that good-quality food makes its way to the plates of all Canadians and families around the world. It’s Good Canada encourages a dialogue about our food system between Canadians and food producers and doesn’t advocate for any specific solution.

It’s Good Canada

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2.1 million people who work in Canada’s food industry
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92 percent of Canadians say Canada produces high-quality food
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$57.7 billion in food exports

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