Letters to the editor – August 15, 2019

Trusted voices in Canada’s food system

We read with great interest, Mike Raine’s piece in a recent edition of The Western Producer where he asked, “Who are the credible sources in agriculture?”

What Raine highlighted, articulates the challenges Canada’s food system faces in the media when “minority-position, generally anti-science speakers” make themselves available to speak on agriculture and food issues, which are then viewed by the public as credible voices.

Conversations around food — where it comes from, how it’s grown, who raises it — have grown steadily in the last number of years. Is it because of social media? Is it because of a growing interest in food from consumers like millennials? Is it because the palettes of consumers are diverse and changing?

We’ll never know the exact answer to these questions as to why more food-related conversations are taking place.

The fact that these conversations are taking place provides a significant opportunity for Canada’s food system.

Food is one thing we all have in common — we all have to eat. That in itself is powerful.

Research from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), as well as other sources, indicate that consumers, media and organizations across Canada are curious, opinionated and hungry for more information on all things food related.

We at the CCFI recognize that Canada’s food system needs to work in partnership to have a go-to, trusted and credible voice that media can reach out to for comment on food issues.

We’ve identified this as a role the CCFI can play in our food system. It doesn’t mean CCFI will speak on behalf of a specific sector on matters; however, the CCFI can act as the conduit to identify trusted, credible sources for media to speak to on food-related matters when the opportunity arises. In addition, the CCFI intends to co-ordinate a proactive communications plan where Canada’s agriculture and food industry speaks directly to consumers on non-sector specific, cross-cutting food system issues. This includes monitoring social media and engaging in these discussions.

Canada’s food system plays an important role in sustainability and driving continuous improvement in all areas of sustainability is an important principle of the sector. Where we really need to step up our game is in putting this information in front of the consumer. We must be that credible voice to the public.

CCFI is working on a plan to achieve this and we think what we’re developing will appeal to industry. For a proactive communications plan to be successful, we will need broad food system support and a commitment to make this happen.

The biggest advantage we have is CCFI has a clarity of purpose that is not sector specific, rather we have an industry-wide vision: to build trust in Canada’s food system.

When consumers ask the questions and media need that trustworthy, go-to source to find answers, our industry deserves a trustworthy, credible source that can articulate the values and attributes of Canada’s food system. The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity wants to collaborate with the Canadian food system to make this a reality.

John Jamieson

President and chief executive officer,

Canadian Centre for Food Integrity

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