Care about bees and food security? Give your voice to challenge Canada’s plans for farming! 🐝 🌽
Concern for food quality, how it’s produced and where it’s produced has never been greater. Canadians recognize the value of healthy food and the significant impacts its production has on the environment, climate change and local economies. We also recognize that agri-industry is responsible for significant environmental and social impacts – for example, that of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees, water and aquatic life and birds, and perhaps even human health impacts.
So we were surprised to see Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada consultation on its “New Policy Framework” focussed on agri-industry and its stakeholders rather than on the breadth of people and players deeply concerned about food and the environment and the Canadian land base. The agri-industry insiders provide valuable but self-interested points of view. For a New Policy Framework to gain public support, other points of view and different knowledge sets must be invited to participate in the process. Allowing the public to provide online comments after the fact is a patronizing exercise and totally inadequate.
At the same time, we understand that Prime Minister Trudeau asked Minister MacAulay to “develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more, healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranchers and farmers, on the tables of families across the country”.
The pivotal issue is how the federal, provincial and territorial governments can agree to the Next Policy Framework without reconciling the needs and opportunities of a National Food Policy with a National Bio-economy Policy, the latter designed to collaborate with industry to drive sustainable growth, innovation and competitiveness of the Canadian agricultural sector on bio-products.
Friends of the Earth’s preliminary assessment shows 150+ provincial government bio-based programs, 24 federal government bio-based programs currently embedded in 40 federal government and crown agencies and at least 27 international bioenergy programs in member countries of the International Bioenergy Agency.
Unlike development proposals in other resource sectors – for example, pipelines and LNG ports, these bio-based developments have largely proceeded without public scrutiny and engagement. There is no Environmental Assessment nor National Energy Board-like process for decisions that have and will affect huge swathes of the Canadian land base. We are concerned that due process and oversight is lacking in the development of Canada’s bio-based economy. We are further concerned that public engagement on Canada’s first-ever National Food Policy without integration with the Bio-Economy Policy will only serve to situate food policy in an urban social niche without roots in Canada’s rural committees and landbase.
Considerations, such as the following examples, are essential and, we believe, currently missing or inadequately addressed:
- Direct risks of biological invasion from new crops or growing large planting of existing species in new regions
- Food security that is in direct competition with food production systems
- Pests and diseases limiting production and prompting prophylactic use of pesticides
- Risks of pests or disease drift via new crops or plantations in new areas
- Social impacts on local communities and contamination of food supply chains (eg toxins, allergens and genetic modifications)
- Scaled environmental impacts: pollution, fire frequency, intensity, water resources, desertification, land degradation and other ecosystem impacts
- Carbon footprint and unsubstantiated economic and environmental benefits from previous bioeconomy decisions
- Consequences under climate change.
Further, we believe there are some 50 international biofuels programs from the European Union, Asia, Africa, South America and the United States which should offer “lessons learned” – revealing, we further believe, daunting and disconcerting potential for environmental and social impacts. The global ecosystem is already stressed – we must not fail to situate any further bio-based economy decisions against this reality.
Friends of the Earth calls on Minister MacAulay and his department to rethink the past decades of agri-industrial development. We hope he will take the opportunity of the liberal’s new mandate to invest the necessary time to integrate Canada’s Food Policy with its Bio-Economy Industrial Policy and, in so doing, to thoroughly engage the Canadian public. The Bio-based Economy is too important to leave to Agri-industry alone.