Pulse Canada CEO urges ‘food reformulation’ to reduce greenhouse gases

Gordon Bacon is urging the federal government to think differently about agriculture and climate change.

Instead of a simplistic and punitive tax on carbon, Canada needs a food policy that addresses a broad swath of issues, including health care costs, environmental outcomes and economic prosperity.

Bacon, who is chief executive officer of Pulse Canada, said a narrow focus on farm practices and greenhouse gases is the wrong approach. More attention should be paid to consumers.

“Ingredient production (at the farm) is looking at only one variable. We also need to look at what people choose to eat and how the food they eat can be formulated and manufactured to reduce the (sector’s) contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bacon, who spoke March 30 to the standing Senate committee on agriculture and forestry, which is studying the impacts of climate change on agriculture.

“We need to look at food solutions that are not only going to improve the health of the planet, but are also going to improve the health of the people.”

The committee his holding hearings on farming and climate change because the federal government and provinces are hashing out policies around greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told provinces to introduce a price for carbon or a cap and trade system by 2018. Otherwise, the feds will impose a price on carbon, starting at $10 a tonne of emissions in 2018 and rising to $50 a tonne by 2022.

The government is hoping a carbon tax encourages farmers to innovate and produce food with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Bacon was one of three industry representatives who addressed the Senate committee. Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl and Phil de Kemp of the Barley Council of Canada also spoke at the meeting.

Dahl and de Kemp emphasized familiar talking points within the ag sector:

• Other grain export countries and regions, such as Australia, the United States and Black Sea producers, don’t have a carbon tax, so Canadian farmers would be at a competitive disadvantage.

• Canadian growers have and are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through conversation tillage and precision use of crop inputs.

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• Farmers should be compensated for carbon that they sequester in the soil.

• A carbon tax would curb growth in the ag sector, damaging a key driver of Canada’s economy.

Bacon mostly avoided those arguments. In his 50 minutes before the committee, he talked mostly about a food policy that is broader than penalizing methane from cows and nitrous oxide from the soil.

“Carbon pricing does not address issues like growing health care costs associated with the rising rates of obesity and the related diseases,” he said.

Instead, giving consumers tools to choose healthy and sustainable foods might make it possible to improve the health of Canadians, expand the economy and protect the environment.

Canada’s Food Guide is one potential information tool.

“The Swedish food guide says on page two, ‘what you eat isn’t just important to your own personal well-being, it’s important to the environment as well,’ ” Bacon said.

“We can calculate the greenhouse gas reduction that could be achieved through food reformulation and dietary innovation, through sourcing from sustainable cropping systems in Canada and encouraging companies and consumers to make informed choices.”

Industry leaders are already moving toward food that is healthy and sustainable.

Companies such as Unilever, Walmart and PepsiCo have adopted sustainability protocols, in which they will buy only grain, oilseeds and other ingredients from farmers who use less fertilizer and emit fewer greenhouse gases.

Yuen Pau Woo, a senator from B.C., challenged Bacon’s idea of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture through “moral suasion.”

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Society and the environment would benefit if Canadians ate more peas, lentils and other healthy food that have minimal environmental impacts.

However, a carbon tax could push consumers in that direction.

“The price mechanism is the best way to get at changing consumer behaviour without making normative judgments about whether your meat diet is harming the planet,” Woo said.

“If we can capture all the (costs) of carbon emissions in the supply chain and have it show up in the price, it’s more likely to influence consumers than anything else.”

Bacon disagreed.

He said taxation is a blunt instrument. If Canadians would make different choices if they knew how a certain food affected the environment.

“I think we’re underestimating the ability of consumers to make informed (decisions),” he said.

“And we’re underestimating the role of government to provide leadership in a food transformation.”

Bacon said such a transformation could produce a new global brand for Canada, where the country is seen as the “healthy people, healthy planet food basket” for the world.

The country should act swiftly on a food policy that targets health, environmental and economic outcomes because it is 20 years behind other western nations, he added.
robert.arnason@producer.com

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  • bufford54

    “The impact of climate change on agriculture”, is nothing but conjecture and speculation. The impact of a Liberal federal government, combined with that of a socialist NDP provincial government, will be far more detrimental to the economy than air pollution.

    • Happy Farmer

      Agree to your climate change comment.

      About the article. Of course the CEO of Pulse Canada would promote his industry to the government. It “seems to fit” todays social comments. Well, there used to be more pulses grown and then disease hit them so farmers were forced in other directions. Also, legumes are notorious for producing “gas” when digested.

      What we need is for the government to stay out of farming and food. The consumer and farmer are perfectly capable of sorting these issues out. But they won’t be worked out in “Social Media” circles. Forums are producing nothing but anger, resentment, unwillingness to see differently or to change. Need proof of the previous comment, I have said several times that when clear and concise evidence shows me a different way than I currently use I will change. I have asked others if they would be so willing, no answers to date.

      A carbon tax is just another tax, so it hurts each one of us. And while it may seem great for Canada to be seen as a leader in climate change, I just don’t see why we should be taxed for such a little overall world impact. (check out what Canada’s contribution worldwide is to greenhouse gases).

      And just for arguments sake I do have a solution for reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions that will not cost 1 cent. It just not very popular to reduce maximum speed limits to 90 kmh.

      • Harold

        Are you looking for evidence or are you waiting for evidence to drop on your lap. It is normal not to specifically target areas that would produce a funding cut or a profit loss so therefore this does prevent honorable clear intent and focus. This is absolutely being normal. This being said, I invite you to look at the documentary: the great global warming swindle. (you tube) If you think that you are capable of being brain-washed or won’t be forgiven for looking, then don’t. These Scientists will have nothing to say to you and you can continue to pay taxes and drive at 90 kmh.

  • Susan Linkletter

    Pay carbon credits to farmers who sequester carbon in their soils and don’t pay anything to the ones who don’t. That is all you would need to do to encourage better farming practices and more nutritious food in the marketplace.

    • Harold

      I recall watching the news when I was young and the scientists were then saying that carbon emissions were blocking the sun and if we didn’t reduce those carbon emissions we would go into an ice age. This fact was presented many times on TV. Had they collected carbon taxes back then they would have been proven correct; we would have warmed. Now they want a tax to prevent global warming and the TV and media are regularly presenting the fact and again blaming high emissions of carbon. Why do you believe that we should be paying any tax at all and especially when Canada produces only the smallest fraction of carbon emissions? China or any other country can up their production and totally erase all of what we have for years paid taxes on. One volcano eruption can do the same. Does this not scream to you that this is nothing more than a fraudulent tax grab? Notice that the scientists who are making the claim are unheard of, unnamed and untitled, and that they themselves are not communicating directly to the public. There also has been talk of imprisoning people for being climate change deniers. Banned thought; very scientific.
      Back some 50 years ago it would have taken about 20 years to expose the fraud and today it will take 20 years to expose this fraud. I can only think that the people back then were not as gullible as we are today because I heard the people around me saying let’s just see what the good lord provides. Apparently the good lord provided warming instead. I think that the scientists of that day were not amused. Documentary: the great global warming swindle. (you tube)

      • Susan Linkletter

        Black carbon (soot) does cause global cooling. CO2 causes global warming, they are two different things. Black carbon that hangs above low-lying stratocumulus clouds stabilizes the layer of air on top of the clouds, promoting their growth. It just so happens that thick stratocumulus clouds are like shields, blocking incoming sunlight. As a result, black carbon ends up cooling the planet.

  • Susan Linkletter

    Carbon credits for building organic content in soils

    http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6937e.pdf

  • Harold

    You should fact check your facts. Fact: The 97% were only 77 scientists. Fact: You do not know who the 77 scientists are nor do you know their official titles and back ground. Fact: You do not have scientific credentials backing your opinion when you cannot identify the scientist by name and title and therefore you have no experts. Fact: the 97% narrative has never changed. Is this usual especially when 77 are amongst thousands? No new information is possible in science? Science took a stand-still to favor taxation?
    You have made your choice and your choice is politically constructed. If you are satisfied with this then so be it; you are groomed for taxes and being the “good citizen” you will do the “right” thing. Governments are so incorruptible and trustworthy when it comes to handling our money aren’t they? No doubt Trudeau is the wizard of Oz.

    • Susan Linkletter

      The number of papers rejecting AGW [Anthropogenic, or human-caused, Global Warming] is a miniscule proportion of the published research, with the percentage slightly decreasing over time. Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.”

      J. Cook, et al, “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature,” Environmental Research Letters Vol. 8 No. 2, (15 May 2013); DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024

      Quotation from page 3: “Among abstracts that expressed a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the scientific consensus. Among scientists who expressed a position on AGW in their abstract, 98.4% endorsed the consensus.”

      W. R. L. Anderegg, “Expert Credibility in Climate Change,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 107 No. 27, 12107-12109 (21 June 2010); DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003187107.

      P. T. Doran & M. K. Zimmerman, “Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union Vol. 90 Issue 3 (2009), 22; DOI: 10.1029/2009EO030002.

      N. Oreskes, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Science Vol. 306 no. 5702, p. 1686 (3 December 2004); DOI: 10.1126/science.1103618.

      Some facts for you to explore.

      • Harold

        When did science become political and when did political become science? When does science close its doors? Do you understand that science discoveries are not determined by a consensus? There are some facts that you need to explore and exploration is not in the gathering of support for your own talking points. Give me examples of the scientists who are the so called “Climate deniers” (6000 PHD) and tell me what they have said and how your evidence can prove them wrong; do some real research. For your information, the reports which are published are the reports which were funded and funding is given to only those who “prove the globalist Agenda”.
        What would happen to taxation if these scientists, that you choose to believe, were all proven wrong? If you think that the climate change hysteria is not politically constructed, then you are living under a rock. (PS. hint: started in 1947)