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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Federal Elections and Food Security

The federal elections will be held on 19 October and voters are examining the policies of the political parties to make an informed choice. So it is perhaps a good time to review the party platforms related to food security also. This is part of a series of articles on food security of which last month and this month we are reviewing policies that can make an impact.

Party Platforms

The Conservative Party promotes self sufficiency in national food production. Their focus reportedly on agriculture as a business seeks to protect and promote export oriented agro-businesses by investing in innovative research and development projects to keep the farming industry competitive. Food and food processing industries are recognized as an important part of the economy. 

The National Democratic Party have committed to a national food strategy emphasizing local sustainable food production and consumption by reducing barriers to local agricultural production as well as promoting local businesses in the food chain through federal procurement to support Canadian producers in their campaigning. The platform further highlights safe, transparent healthy food choices, food waste reduction, improving food access, investing in public health through research and education about nutrition. The NDP leader has recently declared support and spending pledges to address food related issues in the northern regions.

The Liberal Party promises to support farmers in solving challenges of transportation, water management, research, and food safety. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will receive funding for more food safety inspections of domestic and imported foods. Plans for agri-food value added investment funds to create jobs in food processing have been announced as also investment to support innovation and infrastructure for agriculture, soil conservation, water management and green infrastructure. 

The Green Party have described a detailed vision related to food security. They plan actions to improve food self-sufficiency, food safety, promote local, organic, sustainable agricultural practices and protect the environment against climate change. The Party promotes policies to shift emphasis to organically growing food in small and medium ecologically sustainable family farms rather than large, commercial export oriented agriculture and factory farming of livestock. They plan to empower the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to monitor transfat levels, sugary foods, use of pesticides and strengthen the Canadian Organic Standard. Measures to support urban farming, local food markets, seed exchange programs/seed banks and to preserve agricultural lands have all been detailed in their vision. They also promise to establish federally funded community-guided school lunch programs.

Image Source: Food Secure Canada

National Food Policy

Burnaby Food First have been promoting the national drive by Food Secure Canada to list key policy improvements that Parties could commit to as part of their 'Eat Think Vote' campaign focussing on:
  • zero hunger in Canada 
  • affordable food in northern and remote communities
  • support for new farmers
  • a federal investment in a universal healthy school food program
Food Secure Canada have cited a new report on the persistently high rates of household food insecurity in Canada indicating that approximately 12.5 percent of households experienced food insecurity in 2013, the year for which most recent statistics are available. The food insecurity crisis in the north calls for much more urgent action as detailed here. One solution to address these issues at least in the case of children is the suggested universal school food program based on the idea of making sure that all children can eat at least one healthy meal or snack at school each day. 

It seems fitting to strive to ensure there is enough food on everyone's plate especially during this time of thanksgiving.

Votes Matter

The trend in farming is towards concentration of few large export oriented mono crop agri-businesses and seed monopolization. Many older farmers are retiring. Supporting new farmers farming on a smaller scale using sustainable methods may be more geared towards improving affordable access to local nutritious food supply and protecting the environment as reported here. This kind of support to new farmers may also provide the necessary balance to offset some potential disadvantages of treating food as just a commodity traded internationally for economic gain. 

In this context the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, a very recent trade pact among 12 countries that may impact the supply management in Canada is especially significant for dairy, poultry and egg farmers. Some details are reported on this deal and where the national parties stand on this subject. TPP needs to be ratified in national legislatures so the outcome of these elections may determine the future of such trade deals and also the future of national food security in many ways! 

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