Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Food Systems’

Future Food: rebuilding the middle of the food system

Jessie Radies_Blog Author_ENGuest blog by Jessie Radies, Local Food Associate, Northlands

The future of our food system depends on us and the choices we make every day. In North America, what we eat, where we buy it and what we grow, all help determine the make-up of our global food system.

There is growing collective recognition that our global food system, as it operates today, is not feeding our planet efficiently and comes at a great cost.  Regions are not encouraged to be self-reliant, farming is not financially viable with an ongoing effort to drive down the cost of production, starvation is still a reality and much of the food grown and raised is wasted before it ever gets eaten.

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Globally, science and agriculture are focused on providing enough calories to feed a global population of 9 billion people by 2050.  Today we imagine this by making agriculture production efficient and low cost; having infrastructure that can transport, store and process food products and ingredients efficiently around the globe.  It also requires chemicals and GMO’s to increase annual production and protect against disease and minimize the risk of crop failure. It means varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown based on their ability to be shipped, so oranges, bananas and fresh tomatoes can be a staple in our North American diet year round and can be shipped thousands of miles before they end up on our plate.

In my lifetime our food system has changed from one that was basically local to one that is primarily global, but the emergent edge of food is hyper-local and small, made up of urban agriculture, heritage varieties and artisan products.

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Northern Manitoba Community Food Security and Cultural Food Heritage

Guest post by Carl McCorrister, retired teacher and member of the Peguis Community Garden

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Seven years ago, I retired after a teaching career spanning 25 years in northern Manitoba. Feeling the urge to start something new, I began to complete a Master’s degree, and then contemplated how I had always wanted to return to the land to  promote food security within my community, Peguis First Nation.

Located 190 kilometers north of Winnipeg in the Interlake Region of Manitoba, Peguis is home to about 10,000 people, making it the largest First Nations community in the province.  In a region where disputes around Treaty Land Entitlement have persisted for years, I unexpectedly found myself with the opportunity to participate in the development of a community garden that would also function as a means of reconnecting Peguis First Nation with its land and agricultural heritage…and so began working with the Peguis Community Garden.

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In 2011-2012, fundraising began for a community garden in Peguis that would also serve as an education hub to share resources around healthy eating and well-being. Following a successful series of bingo nights, the Community Garden project had rapidly generated interest and support and project participants were able to break ground on a three-acre garden site on common Band land. The year was a success: the soil was perfect, so much so that a small portion of the plot went into production that year. The community was thrilled about the garden and viewed it as an opportunity to reclaim the agricultural heritage of the land.  (more…)

Catching seafood up with the local and sustainable food movement

Justin Cantafio_Blog Author_En Susanna Fuller_Blog Author_ENGuest post by Justin Cantafio, Sustainable Fisheries Campaigner and Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator at Ecology Action Centre.

Consumer preferences and buying habits can be instrumental in sharping food systems. Over the past two decades, two seemingly deviating consumer trends have taken hold. On one hand, our growing on-demand society seeks convenient and easily identifiable foods, with discerning consumers looking to third-party certifications and eco-labels to inform them on health and sustainability claims. On the other hand, consumers are increasingly turning to food to slow down and reconnect to family and friends, community, and food producers.

Luckily, the latter trend of whole foods direct from producer has begun to inform the desire for convenient and quick food. Gradually, trends that start off in local chalkboard menu restaurants and farmers markets have been finding their way into institutions and supermarkets. And while an erosion of values often occurs in the globalized commodity marketplace of big box stores, broadline food service providers, and restaurant chains, the result of both trends is that consumers are increasingly scrutinizing where their food came from, who produced it, and how it was produced.

Two young fishers working a weir—an ancient low-impact fishing method—on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Two young fishers working a weir—an ancient low-impact fishing method—on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

From the silver platter to the hospital dinner tray, local and sustainable foods are growing in popularity. Yet while universities and elementary school cafeterias are proclaiming their menus replete with local poultry or organic salad greens, more often than not, outside of catch of the day labels – a fish is still a fish— and a wild protein luxury we often take for granted.

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Three Thresholds from Worse to Better

Hal Hamilton_Blog Author_EN

 

Someone told me the other day that everything is getting better and better, worse and worse, faster and faster. There’s no such thing as “business as usual” anymore. Even the fast food companies are incorporating sustainability goals into their businesses. Local and organic are growing fast. Consumer research shows that concern about sustainable production of food influences shoppers more in Brazil and China than in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

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Better food is available in the niches and in the mainstream, but soil and fertilizer is still killing off the marine life where rivers meet seas all around the world. Small farmers have to become much more productive or exit for the cities. Aquifers are disappearing under some of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world.

We do-gooders try and sort out the heroes and villains in this story, but the actors don’t divide out that way. On the small farm where I live, we cool vegetables with air conditioners stuck in the walls of wooden coolers in the barn. Even though horses till the fields, the carbon footprint of the vegetables is probably pretty high because of the air conditioners, and because customers drive cars to the farm on pick-up days.

I want grass-fed beef to be MUCH better for the world than feedlot beef, but the science is mixed up.

 

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National Food Policy and the Future of Food

Diana Bronson_Blog Author_EN

 

I write this blog on a plane having just watched Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next. The film ends as Moore reminisces about the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989, when people simply took hammers and chisels to the concrete structure that had outlived its usefulness to anyone. I believe the food system for the next generation of Canadians will be as different from today’s as the Germany of Chancellor Merkel is different from the Germany she grew up in.

Twenty years ago, on November 9, 1989, jubilant crowds celebrated the opening of border crossings along the Berlin Wall. To find out more about the Berlin Wall, please visit www.Germany.info/withoutwalls. Copyright: Press and Information Office of the Federal Government of Germany. (PRNewsFoto/German Embassy Washington, DC)

Just as East Germans no longer believed the Soviet lie, consumers, particularly younger consumers, no longer trust our food system. There are many signs that the future of food will be more local, diversified, decentralized, sustainable, organic. In fact, the local system is already thriving on the margins of the dominant system, despite a policy environment that has been geared for decades to industrial production where success is measured by the growth of exports. Government policy has been increasingly out of sync with the way more and more people are looking at food: they are concerned about the health impacts of the overuse of antibiotics and pesticides; they are frightened by the collapse of entire species (bees, monarchs, tuna); and the risks involved in extreme forms of genetic modification (synthetic biology, GM fish); they mistrust the products of industrial and factory farming and they are concerned about the rights of workers and farmers and fishers to make decent livelihoods while growing the food we need to survive. When given the option, as we saw recently in the French’s Ketchup controversy, they are fiercely local.

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Eating Responsibly: A Daily Challenge for Tomorrow!

Florence_Blog Author_EN

Guest blog by Florence Lefebvre St-Arnaud, Owner, Campanipol Family Farm 

Food: a central theme of contemporary life and a priority issue for agricultural producers. The food system appears to be rediscovering the importance of local products, the quality and traceability of products, and the family farm. However, the system seems to be at a crossroads.

As a member of a family farm that has been a certified organic producer for nearly 30 years, it goes without saying that I would like our food system to be more focused on innovation and our rich array of local products. Above all, I hope that all the initiatives taken by the generations that have come before will continue to evolve and help change society’s overall vision of farming and food. Whether by carrying out collective marketing initiatives, sustaining small farms specialized in niche productions, or promoting and providing information about urban agriculture and self-sufficiency, I continue to believe that we should strive to have multiple options, as a community, to allow us to eat responsibly.

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Reading the Future in a Glass of Milk

Guest blog by Isabelle Mailhot-Leduc, Sustainable Food System Coordinator, Concordia University

Isabelle blog author_ENHalf listening to the radio as I prepared my dinner, I was suddenly struck by the words of the reporter and turned up the volume. The radio program was talking about a demonstration that had taken place earlier that day in front of a large milk-processing plant in Montreal. Some 50 milk producers had gathered there to denounce the use of diafiltered milk from the United States in the industrial production of dairy products. Diafiltered milk is a product that has been filtered several times in order to obtain a very high protein liquid. It is also available in powder form. Canadian customs authorities consider diafiltered milk an ingredient, making the product exempt from tariffs on milk. Major dairy processors are delighted with this situation, as diafiltered milk allows them to save money. Not only is this milk competitively priced, but given its high protein content, it is also more efficient than Quebec milk for the industrial production of yoghurt and cheese. My thoughts were immediately drawn to the concept of a more “efficient” milk.

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Technology takes us back to the future of fish

eric enno tamm_This fish_ENGuest blog by Eric Enno Tamm, General Manager, This Fish

The fishing industry is our most ancient food system. It’s really the last vestige of our hunter-gather society, predating human civilization (and agriculture) by hundreds of thousands of years. Wild-capture fisheries are our greatest undomesticated protein source – the original paleo-diet. The technology and industrial scale of fishing has certainly changed over centuries, but the pursuit of fish on the untamed seas is an age-old story.

So, what is the future of this ancient pursuit? The revolution in information technology and changing consumer attitudes and behaviours presents an opportunity to reverse many of the excesses of industry-scale fisheries in the last half century. The problems have become all too apparent.

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Consumers, businesses, NGOs and governments are demanding more transparency and accountability in supply chains to prevent illegal fishing, seafood fraud and human rights abuses. Oceana campaigners have DNA-tested 1,200 seafood samples in the U.S. showing that 30 percent of some species were mislabeled. Recent investigative reports have uncovered shocking stories of slavery at sea in Southeast Asian fisheries. And scholars have estimated that between 20% – 32% of wild-caught seafood imported into the U.S. is illegally harvested.  (more…)

The Future of Food: From the Personal to the Global

 

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Ruth Richardson_ENGuest blog by Ruth Richardson, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food

Food touches us at a very personal level: it binds us as families, it brings communities together, and it nourishes us. Food is also a commodity, with its global production and trade cutting across some of the most pressing issues we currently face as a species — climate change, poverty, public health, displacement. Our food and agriculture systems are amazingly resilient and diverse. And yet they are also fractured and too often not sustainable – increasingly, food production is depleting our natural resources, good and nutritious food is not available to all, and our global markets take away from, instead of build, our local economies.

At the Global Alliance for the Future of Food we have come together to address these critical issues. As a strategic alliance of foundations, we aim to leverage our resources and develop frameworks for change that enable us collectively to accelerate the transition of food systems from those marked by hunger, pollution, water scarcity and declining food crops towards those that are more sustainable, secure and equitable.

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To get there, we must address the economics of food and advocate for fair and transparent food accounting. Through support to initiatives like Food Tank and TEEBAgriFood, we aim to make transparent the economic distortions in food systems by developing frameworks that value both the positive (carbon sequestration, pollination services, health) and negative  (CO2 emissions, diabetes, farmworker exposure to toxins, ocean acidification) “external” costs of food production, distribution, and consumption across global systems. As HRH, The Prince of Wales said in his well-known Future of Food speech, what we need “is something very simple … to include in the bottom line the true costs of food production … it has never been needed more.” 

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Future Food: Conserving diversity for climate resilience

Guest post by Jane Rabinowicz, Director of the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security at USC Canada and Bob Wildfong,  Executive Director of Seeds of Diversity Canada

Bob Wildfong_EN Jane Rabinowisz_ENThe future of food will be dictated by climate and weather patterns that will be different than any farmers have yet experienced, and which are now unpreventable. Climate change will affect different geographical regions in different ways, but the common factor is that the weather will not just be warmer; it will be more variable and unpredictable.

Everyone has noticed that summer storms seem more frequent, more violent, and harder to forecast. Farmers are seeing greater variation in the first and last frost dates that dictate the length of the growing season. Unexpected droughts and floods are affecting food prices. These are not just warning signs; they are very real challenges that threaten an agriculture system built on an industrial assumption of predictable conditions.

Most of the world’s deserts are in two bands on either side of the equator where atmospheric currents draw water from the ground. A warming earth means stronger air currents, making deserts bigger, and wiping out farmland. Massive losses of arable land and water sources could force enormous migrations from subtropical countries, making current and previous refugee crises look like mere rehearsals for the calamities to come.

 

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In North America we will probably see the deserts of the southern U.S. encroach into the agricultural heartland, and permanent drought conditions in adjacent areas such as California. Higher summertime temperatures will reduce wheat production in the northern U.S. and Canada by as much as 10%. Although average temperatures will be warmer, we will not necessarily reap benefits from longer growing seasons, because the fluctuations of highs and lows will happen faster.

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