1.15 Agriculture and food

by Craig Cantin | November 29, 2011 11:27 am

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For centuries, family farms were the foundation of our society and economy. Over the last five decades, federal policies, subsidies, and changing technologies have shifted food production from small ecologically-sustainable family farms to giant agribusinesses. This shift has given multinational corporations control over our food supply. Meanwhile, farmers increasingly rely on off-farm income to survive.

Our food security and safety are threatened directly by agribusiness, as factory farms crowd chickens, turkeys, cows, and pigs into inhumane and unhygienic conditions, creating the risk of serious health threats from toxic spinach to mad cow disease and swine flu. Animals are often pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, while many crops are now genetically modified and treated with pesticides.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has a credibility problem. CFIA has an inherent conflict of interest, mandated to regulate for food safety, while at the same time mandated to promote Canadian food products in Canada and abroad. This, plus a lack of preparedness, accounts for the delay on blowing the whistle on the listeriosis outbreak due to Maple Leaf luncheon meats in 2008, in which 22 people died, or in the more recent XL beef scandal in 2012. The report on the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak from independent investigator Sheila Weatherill (former head of Edmonton’s health system) noted that increasingly large-scale factory food preparation increased risks to health and safety. However, the recommendations focused only on more inspections and more chemical cleaning instead of reforming the food system to encourage smaller, more traceable operations.

Just when Canadians were reeling from the listeriosis outbreak, a memo from inside CFIA was leaked indicating the Harper government’s plans to cut the number of inspectors. The inspector who found the Treasury Board memo outlining the planned cuts (on a shared server at CFIA) and sent it to his union was fired.

The health of Canada’s population today and in the future depends on the environmentally sustainable production of wholesome food. We believe that local organic agriculture must play a role in mitigating climate change, providing food security, restoring soil health, improving human health, protecting water, and providing sustainable livelihoods for citizens. We must restructure our agricultural markets to sustain farming and provide farm families with a fair share of the consumer food dollar. We want to expand local small-scale agriculture and support a rapid transition to organic agriculture rather than subsidizing costly agro-chemicals, industrial food production, and genetically modified crops.

People need healthy food and the healthiest food choices are local. With growing concerns over economic and climatic instability, a reliable domestic food supply is essential. Family-owned and operated farms of small to medium size constitute the most reliable, high quality, and economical food production system, now and into our uncertain future.

The infrastructure needed to support local agriculture is rapidly disappearing. Increasingly, large corporations and centralized operations are shutting down small community slaughter houses to grain elevators and canneries. The lack of local control over means of production is forcing more and more farmers to abandon agriculture. Greens support family farmers as environmental stewards and as efficient producers of nutritious food. The family farm is the primary unit of production. Agricultural policies must be designed to keep family farms economically viable. We support the active participation of Canadian farmers in export markets where this is consistent with achieving their most important role – providing domestic markets with healthy food and sustaining Canada’s agriculture resource base. We support education of Canadian consumers regarding the value of wholesome, locally grown food.

Green Party MPs will develop a National Agricultural and Food Policy which will:

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Source URL: http://elizabethmaymp.ca/vision-green/p1.15