Ottawa seeks opinions on national food policy

Ottawa has launched consultations on the development of a national food policy.

The policy was a Liberal government election promise and included in Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s mandate letter.

MacAulay announced the consultations at the Canadian Association for Food Studies Conference in Toronto May 29.

He said Canadians can have their say through an online survey until July 27. That will be followed by a summary report.

There is also a stakeholder summit scheduled June 22-23 in Ottawa.

The survey includes four themes:

  • better access to affordable food
  • improving health and food safety
  • conserving soil, water and air
  • growing more high quality food

“Food plays a critical role in the health and well-being of Canadians, while also having a direct impact on our environment, economy and communities,” MacAulay said in a statement.

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“Developing this food policy is an exciting opportunity for Canadians to have their say about how government can help address those opportunities and challenges that exist in our food system.”

A national food policy has been on the table for years.

Several organizations have proposed versions, including the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, Food Secure Canada and Conference Board of Canada.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture in 2011 published a food strategy that suggested Canadians should choose Canadian-grown food first and always have access to safe and nutritious food. It said the food chain should be driven by “diverse, sustainable, innovative and profitable farm and food supply sectors.”

CFA board member Mary Robinson, in a document published May 29 by Policy Options, said a strategy is necessary for long-term vision and aligning the many players in the sector.

She noted that better co-ordination among government departments is required because agriculture is interdependent on others such as finance, trade, health and environment.

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“Policy-makers don’t always recognize how innovation can be stifled by seemingly unrelated policy or regulatory changes that in fact have an impact on the agri-food sector,” Robinson said.

Food labelling and foreign agricultural workers are two examples.

She also cited carbon pricing policies, noting policy hasn’t yet evolved to recognize the efficiencies farmers have gained in sequestering emissions.

Robinson said a complete and collaborative approach is needed as the policy is developed.

Food Secure Canada said all Canadians should have access to healthy and affordable food.

“This is our chance to take concrete actions to reform our food system from farm to fork,” said executive director Diana Bronson in a news release.

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