Pandemic should be off limits in war on agriculture

The world’s ability to feed itself is under steady threat from pests, some of them two-legged.

Those who wish to halt proven and safe agricultural practices may not understand the damage they could do or the potential they have to leave people starving and their global environment compromised should the items on their wish list be put into effect.

Greenpeace Canada recently offered up some opinions about Canadian agriculture. It has done so many times in the past and many popular publications across the nation will run its well-crafted opinion pieces or interview the writers as though they offer commentaries based on sound science and keen understanding of popular consumer culture.

The latter is true. Greenpeace is nothing if not attuned to consumers’ greenest agendas. It helps the organization hone its abilities to reach into the homes, minds and wallets of Canadians.

The organization recently pointed to alarming news surrounding outbreaks of COVID-19 in the food processing industry and on farms where significant newcomer and migrant labour is employed. Outbreaks of the viral infection take place wherever humans come together in close contact for extended periods.

Most farmers, unlike Greenpeace officials, understand that farm and food work can be difficult and low-paying due to consumers’ desires to keep their food costs low.

This isn’t just a regional, national or North American issue. Commodities of all types are priced on a supply and demand basis and all price effects of competition, especially when it comes to food, end up being taken from the folks at the bottom of the chain.

Greenpeace’s recent commentary binding Canadian commercial agriculture and food processing to COVID-19 and economically vulnerable workers does a disservice to the environment, farmers and workers.

The organization didn’t want to miss an opportunity to use the pandemic for its purposes, even if requires false claims that it understands the science of food production.

It asks Canadians to prompt the federal government to use the post-pandemic rebuilding as an opportunity to “mitigate the risks posed by industrial food production.” It includes, as another goal, “ensuring that federal subsidies for industrial meat production also end.”

There are no subsidies for meat production, unless we count a few paltry examples of farm income protection as it applies to livestock. And other than COVID-19 recovery grants and loans available to other Canadian businesses, packers get nothing at all.

Greenpeace also chose to attack the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, suggesting there are organic alternatives that emit less greenhouse gas.

It is convenient to do this while not having to answer questions about how farming could create as much or more food without that fertilizer. Instead Greenpeace spits out terms such as organic, regenerative, community-based, local and Indigenous as though there is magic in them.

A lack of understanding about the physical, let alone the economic, systems that surround food production in Canada is no excuse for using this pandemic crisis to fuel an ill-thought-out or hidden agenda.

True environmentalists look to the appropriate use of all farm inputs for the efficient and sustainable production of the highest and healthiest food yields possible, leaving the land better than they found it.

Those people are known as farmers. Their success allows them to employ workers who gain the opportunity to build communities and Canada as a whole.

A “post pandemic recovery builds a new kind of food model: fair, local and low-carbon,” claims Greenpeace. But with no science or a plan to back this up, it only serves to mislead Canadians.

Tying agriculture to a pandemic crisis to help achieve a set of non-science goals is a new low for this group.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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