From a gloomy report in 2013 stating that Canada had some serious ‘right to food’ issues like those seen in developing countries to an IPES Food report this week “Putting agroecology on the agenda in Rome and Ottawa,” I am very encouraged in reading how consultations on developing a national food policy are underway and receiving international recognition for how they are addressing the stark truth:
“Globally we have placed our eggs in one basket, by choosing mass production of uniform commodities in industrial food and farming systems, and the widespread erosion of plant and species diversity. This diversity is the best insurance policy we have. It must be urgently protected at all levels, including on the farm.”
In 2013, the report singled out Canada “for not acknowledging the right to food under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Canada was told “to drop its ‘self-righteous’ attitude about how great a country it is and start dealing with its widespread problem of food insecurity, … and [was] blasted for its ‘appallingly poor’ record of taking recommendations from UN human-rights bodies seriously.”
“It was reported that “the gaps between those living in poverty and the middle- and high-income segments of the population are widening.” It called “on the federal government to do more in a time of relative prosperity,” and it concluded that “a growing number of people across Canada remain unable to meet their basic food needs” (citation).
Since I was one of those people in the statistics at the time of this report, I was encouraged by seeing Canada finally getting their wrists slapped by these bold statements by an international scholar specializing in economic and social rights who reported back to the United Nations. It was time Canada was held responsible for their negligence (more information on this work here, here and here). The committee in receipt of the report argued its validity, when the problem was so blatantly obvious from my viewpoint. Our nation continued to turn a blind eye, but thanks to the ongoing efforts of USC Canada, and Basic Income Canada, the problem is beginning to be addressed. After all, how does a sick person get better and return to income generation when they cannot buy good food and access the right treatment?
At the time, Olivier De Schutter reported that “a significant number of people are living on welfare and, because of the increased cost of housing, they don’t have adequate access to a well-balanced diet. In 2007-08, 7.7 per cent of households reported experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity. That figure rose to 8.2 per cent in 2011. Food banks, the report says, are growing to address the widening gap.” Just in watching the real estate market personally over the past five year without doing any stats, I’d have to say that since de Schutter’s report, housing prices have increased by 30% to 50%. It’s astounding. The gap between the price of things relative to the amount of income some people bring in has widened dramatically since this report.
IPES-Food’s Emile Frison joined USC Canada’s Faris Ahmed in June (2017), calling for Canada to build its new food policy around diversity. Frison presented the findings of IPES-Food’s 2016 report, From Uniformity to Diversity to audiences at McGill University and the University of Ottawa, and hosted disuccussions with the International Development Research Centre (Canada), Canadian MPs and Senators.
This transformation is happening across our food system. It’s being led by young farmers, chefs, biodiversity gardens, school meal programs, and institutional purchasers like universities, hospitals, and municipalities.
However, what’s largely missing is a national vision — the policy support and incentives from national governments to unblock the barriers that are preventing us from moving more quickly towards a viable food future. With the opportunity to think about Canada’s national and international food and climate policies, here’s the moment for Canada to step up to the plate (citation).
The IPES-Food report (click image on left): From Uniformity To Diversity calls for a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture
to diversified agroecological systems. It identifies the challenge as shifting the centre of gravity in food systems and the need for systemic change. It recognizes a polarity or two ends of a spectrum: industrial agriculture (what I often refer to as Ag 2.0 in this blog) and diversified agroecological systems. A table compares the difference. It also speaks of how both industrial agriculture and subsistence agriculture (what I often refer to as Ag 1.0 in this blog) can transition to a diversified agroecological system.
Is this the future of agriculture? or will it take something more, which is involved in a shift in consciousness? This is the focus of the work of the FFFN.
My current study looks at the impact of cultural norms and deeply rooted trauma that we have been unable to face, so that we can confront the cultural attitudinal constructs that is our society’s shadow… the elephant in the room. We need to open that dialogue, whether through art, using music for activism, writing and poetry, sharing home grown food, or sitting together and holding space for conversation. We may also have to return to getting our hands dirty, remember?! getting dirt under your fingernails?! or we could don some gumboots and wade around in the muck a bit. At least, for all those of you making perfect lawns out there, maybe we can chose barefootsteps on chemical free lawns instead of fertilizer (and weed killer).