Wednesday, 19 July 2017 00:00

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Shape Canada’s Food Policy!

Did you know Canada has never had a food security strategy? That's about to change! And the government wants your help to create it.

The words "have your say!" and USC Canada's logo superimposed over and image of many varieties of vegetable laid out on a wooden surface.

Consultations are online and open to the public until August 31! Click here to have your say.

Not sure what a National Food Policy is or why Canada needs one? Read on.

Why we need a National Food Policy

Whether we're talking about growing food or consuming it, food has a huge impacts on our environment, our health, and social justice.

Did you know Canada currently has no single policy that provides a concerted vision for our country's food system? Thankfully, that is about to change.

Civil society organizations, like USC Canada and Food Secure Canada, have been advocating for years for a comprehensive approach to food that can improve the wellbeing of our communities and our environment, today and for generations to come.

We succeeded: the Government of Canada is currently working to develop our first National Food Policy - and they want to hear from us all! USC Canada applauds the government for taking on this work.

Canada's first National Food Policy must build social justice, support ecological agriculture, and enhance agricultural diversity. We are working hard to make this happen, and we need you to help us.

What you can do

We're sharing with you the main comments that USC Canada just submitted to Canada's online food policy consultation. If you find yourself agreeing with us, you can add your voice to ours by copying and pasting the text boxes below into each of the five comment boxes provided by the online consultation form.

The more people reinforce the same vision, the better chance we have to impact the National Food Policy. Let's demand a policy that builds social justice, supports ecological agriculture, enhances agricultural biodiversity, and supports farmers.

The consultation closes on August 31. So act now!

USC Canada's vision for the National Food Policy

USC Canada believes that our National Food Policy should ensure that all people in Canada have agency in their food choices, and long term access to sustainable, diverse, and just food.

Canada's National Food Policy must:

  • Conserve and enhance agricultural biodiversity, supporting programs that keep that diversity alive and adapting in the field to ensure food security and climate adaptation.
  • Prioritize agroecological production, and help new and existing farmers adopt more sustainable and viable farm practices.
  • Establish strong democratic and participatory governance mechanisms (food policy councils) to facilitate civil society engagement and oversight in food policies. Women, youth, Indigenous peoples and ecological farmers must be well represented.
  • Support Indigenous leadership for Indigenous food sovereignty.
  • Resource the policy, ensuring adequate financial support to deliver strong impacts in Canadian communities.

The government identified four thematic areas in the online consultation. Here is USC Canada's take on each one of them.

If you agree with us, add your weight to our's by copying and pasting the text boxes below into each of the five comment boxes provided by the online consultation form.


Growing More High Quality Food

USC Canada believes growing more "high quality food" means more "sustainable food."

Canada needs to help the food and agriculture sectors innovate and adapt to growing more high quality food based on sustainable and climate resilient practices, invest in both domestic and export markets, and acknowledge the important role of small- and medium-sized farms, processors and retailers.

The National Food Policy must develop a comprehensive strategy to increase agroecological and organic production.
Such a strategy should:

  • Increase investments in on-farm agroecological/organic R&D.
  • Invest in the growth and viability of small- and medium-sized operations.
  • Support knowledge transfer.
  • Buffer risks for farmers transitioning to organic.
  • Support new farmers.
  • Protect agricultural land, and acknowledge ecosystem functions provided by ecological growers.
  • Support social innovations across the value chain, like cooperatives, vertical integration and local market development.

The 50 word recap (you're welcome to copy and paste):

Develop a comprehensive strategy to increase agroecological and organic production. This should include public funding for agroecological/organic R&D, knowledge transfer, transition support, and local market development. This should also include protection of agricultural land, support to new farmers, and support for social innovations across the entire value chain.

Conserving our soil, water, and air

USC Canada believes biodiversity and land are our two most precious resources for food security and climate resilience.

We must keep diversity alive, adapting in the field, and available to the public to sow, save and replant. And we need to conserve agricultural land to ensure a sustainable food future. All strategies related to this theme must acknowledge the critical role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in stewarding and protecting our biodiversity, land, water and air.

The National Food Policy must include strategies to conserve and enhance agricultural biodiversity and protect agricultural land.

These strategies should:

  • Support on-farm, farmer-led seed conservation and participatory plant breeding programs. Very strong strategies have been developed by The Bauta Family Initiative for Canadian Seed Security.
  • Implement the International Treaty for Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Canada. This can be achieved through partnerships between public institutions like Plant Gene Resources Canada and civil society organizations such as USC Canada.
  • Incentivize provinces and territories to address agricultural land protection/ownership and ensure long term, secure land and water access to Indigenous peoples, new and existing farmers.

The 50 word recap (you're welcome to copy and paste):

Conserve and enhance agricultural biodiversity by working with civil society organizations such as USC Canada to support on-farm seed conservation and participatory plant breeding and implement the International Treaty for Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Incentivize provinces and territories to protect agricultural land and address land ownership.

Improving access to affordable, nutritious and safe food

USC Canada believes food is a human right - one that Canada is currently failing in its obligations to protect and fulfill. This must change.

We must ensure that people have more than access to good food; they need agency in their food choices. We must also acknowledge that cheap food is often unsustainable and unhealthy. If we are serious about achieving food security for all, we need to improve the income of the most vulnerable people - this often includes farmers and food workers who feed us.

The National Food Policy must adopt a right to food strategy. This must include measures to eradicate food insecurity and hunger; support access to local sustainable food, hunting, fishing, gathering, and home production; guarantee a basic income for all- including for farmers and food workers. It must also encourage shifting diets toward whole foods that are locally and sustainably produced. This strategy must acknowledge the global nature of our food system, linking to international assistance and negotiations on food and agriculture.

The 50 word recap (you're welcome to copy and paste):

Develop a comprehensive right to food strategy. This must include strategies to eradicate food insecurity; support access to local sustainable food, hunting, fishing, gathering, and home production; guarantee a basic income for all; and encourage shifting diets toward whole foods that are locally and sustainably produced.

Improving health and food safety

USC Canada believes "healthy and safe" food starts with food that is local, sustainable and nutritious.

Local, sustainable foods don't require synthetic chemical and fertilizers, are rarely linked to preventable foodborne illnesses, and traceability is easy (if concerns arise). Yet, food safety protocols and assurance systems often pose significant barriers to growing and sourcing local sustainable food. This must change.

Canada's National Food Policy must include strategies to:

  • Create scale-appropriate food safety protocols and assurance systems to support local sustainable food systems.
  • Shift diets toward whole foods that are locally and sustainably produced. Good local food (and good seeds) should be easily accessible and short supply chains should be strengthened.
  • Encourage institutional procurement of local and sustainable food, including a cost-shared universal healthy school food program to ensure that all school children learn basic food skills and have access to healthy, nutritious meals every day.

The 50 word recap (you're welcome to copy and paste):

Invest in scale-appropriate food safety protocols and assurance systems to support local sustainable food development. Encourage institutional purchasing of local sustainable food, including the creation of a universal cost-shared healthy school food program.

Additional comments

The online consultation provides you with a longer comment box at the end to add any final thoughts.

We suggest using this box to reinforce some key points. Write your own, or simply copy and paste the following text that reflects the positions we explain above.

I support Canada's efforts to develop its first Food Policy. I appreciate the objectives already identified - especially the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect farmland, and support regional food systems and new farmers. I believe biodiversity conservation should be added as a top priority objective.

This consultation process required me to prioritize between many equally valid priorities that should not be thought of as trade-offs to each other - they are all essential to our sustainable food future.

Our National Food Policy needs to ensure that all people in Canada have agency in their food choices, and long term access to sustainable, diverse, and just food.

More specifically, Canada's National Food Policy must:

  • Conserve and enhance agricultural biodiversity, supporting programs that keep that diversity alive and adapting in the field to ensure food security and climate adaptation.
  • Prioritize agroecological production, and help new and existing farmers adopt more sustainable and viable farm practices.
  • Establish strong democratic and participatory governance mechanisms (food policy councils) to facilitate civil society engagement and oversight in food policies. Women, youth, Indigenous peoples and ecological farmers must be well represented.
  • Support Indigenous leadership for Indigenous food sovereignty.
  • Resource the policy, ensuring adequate financial support to deliver strong impacts in Canadian communities.
Read 2726 times Last modified on Tuesday, 08 August 2017 19:26

11 comments

  • Comment Link Wilma Vander Kooi Thursday, 17 August 2017 16:02 posted by Wilma Vander Kooi

    I fully agree with the above 50 word recap boxes!
    Change begins with one person/group at a time.
    We need all the training, assistance & encouragement we can get.

  • Comment Link USC Canada Monday, 31 July 2017 17:49 posted by USC Canada

    Responding to comment: http://www.usc-canada.org/resources/news/item/584-don-t-miss-your-chance-to-shape-canada-s-food-policy#comment4863

    Hi Dorothy, thanks for your comment. The food policy isn't written yet, so we don't know what the National Food Policy will end up looking like just yet. We're advocating for a policy that will build social justice, support ecological agriculture, and enhance agricultural diversity. That has to include supporting the rights of all food producers - including Indigenous peoples and community gardeners - and making sure quality food is accessible to all, regardless of income levels.

    Now is the time to raise your concerns. The more people join us in filling out the government's consultation to raise these important points, the more likely government will include measures designed to make good, healthy food accessible to all Canadians.

  • Comment Link USC Canada Monday, 31 July 2017 17:44 posted by USC Canada

    Responding to comment: http://www.usc-canada.org/resources/news/item/584-don-t-miss-your-chance-to-shape-canada-s-food-policy#comment4864

    We hear you Sylvia. USC Canada is asking the federal government to support other ways of meeting farmers' needs for good seeds, like on-farm seed conservation, and participatory plant breeding. Thanks for you comment!

  • Comment Link USC Canada Monday, 31 July 2017 17:43 posted by USC Canada

    Responding to comment: http://www.usc-canada.org/resources/news/item/584-don-t-miss-your-chance-to-shape-canada-s-food-policy#comment4865

    Hi Betsy, that is such a great suggestion. People can find their local MP's contact info here: https://lop.parl.ca/ParlInfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC. And yes, we're with you 100 per cent on the need to support local food movements and systems! Thanks for your support.

  • Comment Link USC Canada Monday, 31 July 2017 17:39 posted by USC Canada

    Responding to comment: http://www.usc-canada.org/resources/news/item/584-don-t-miss-your-chance-to-shape-canada-s-food-policy#comment4862

    Hi Carole, thanks for your question. The answer to your question is yes!

    Our recommendations focus on conserving and enhancing agricultural biodiversity - seeds. We think this should be done through on-farm seed conservation, and participatory plant breeding, which is when farmers team up in the field with trained plant breeders to develop seed varieties better suited to their needs. We see this as an approach that has a lot more potential for farmers worldwide than focusing on GMOs. Sadly, this kind of work and research is vastly underfunded.

    If you are interested in supporting non-GMO practices, please consider making a donation to USC Canada! It's thanks to donors like you that we can work with farmers around the world to grow better seeds and better food.

    If you'd like to learn more, see these links for our Canadian seed security program (http://www.seedsecurity.ca/en/) and our Seed of Survival programs in 11 other countries (http://www.usc-canada.org/sos). Thanks for your support, Carole!

  • Comment Link USC Canada Monday, 31 July 2017 17:34 posted by USC Canada

    Hi Jean, you are right - we need to adopt more sustainable diets, and fight food waste. And yes to improving farming practices, like planting diversified crops! You might really enjoy this report (http://www.ipes-food.org/images/Reports/UniformityToDiversity_FullReport.pdf) by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food). It reflects the mounting evidence that we actually can produce all the food we need in a sustainable and more equitable way, through diversified, agroecological farming systems.

    It won't be easy to shift to a new model, but our work at USC Canada is all about putting in place the building blocks we need to get there, starting with locally-adapted seeds. Thanks for your comment and your support!

  • Comment Link Jean Tuesday, 25 July 2017 16:51 posted by Jean

    The notion that all foods can be sustainably produced and economic is sadly not viable unless we adopt approaches akin to that of WW2/UK so people with enough land must produce some vegetables or allow someone else to do so on their property.
    Meat can either be rationed or priced prohibitively so that less meat is actually consumed. Then the profit on that meat needs to go to reduce the price of healthy alternatives, esp. in the green veg Dept. and dairy. It is true that the War resulted in a Black Market and the very poor did not see a single grapefruit while the affluent got to pass them around. So I would not impose rationing on a/c of black marketeering. By the same token we need to eat beans and other sustainable foods and most of us need far less than we presently consume.So Education is needed. N. Americans waste jaw dropping amounts of food. Post war babies are more conscious of its value. I am in favour of revisiting the strip system of agriculture which existed prior to the Agri revolution. = symbiotic relationships between plant families, reduced pests naturally. Nitrogen produced by one plant, feeding its neighbour. Animals kept humanly and slaughtered likewise. 11/2 k of meat fed a family of 5 for several days, and Cauliflower cheese was an acceptable alternate meal. Cheese was cheaper than the present product.0 processed product available.

  • Comment Link Betsy Cornwell Tuesday, 25 July 2017 15:20 posted by Betsy Cornwell

    Any supporter of USC's policies for bio-diversity should send a personal letter to their P - whether or not you support the party represented and firmly demand that Canada's food policy should acknowledge the need to support bio-diversity and the preservation of viable food producing land. IT would also be good to support local food producers and help from the federal government to support the local food movement. Federal aid/assistance to the multinational food related monopolies is not only not needed but shuld be discouraged in favour of made in Canada processing and distribution.

  • Comment Link Sylvia Gagnon Tuesday, 25 July 2017 12:10 posted by Sylvia Gagnon

    I do not want GMO foods!!!

  • Comment Link Dorothy povolo Tuesday, 25 July 2017 05:27 posted by Dorothy povolo

    Does this mean food banks will be able to give out fresh vegetables and meat other than canned meats. Also does this mean that community gardens will be represented by local government for grants to improve each garden which us low incomes working people keep. Does this mean that vegetable and meat costs will go down when buying from your own region. Does this mean that all will pay the same cost or only Indian nation people will get discounts or privileges as they do in the fishing industry. Will this turn into another tax grab from the government. Will people continue ue to be allowed to raise organically grown food prices up. Or will they be forced to charge the same as everyone else.

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LottaHitschmanova tbnWhat's in a Name?

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.

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