Commentary by Senior Director of the Agro-Food Analysis Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
COP15 on biodiversity brought thousands of delegates to Montreal to address the critical issues facing our planet. In relation to food systems, participants discuss considerations of fisheries in agroecology, food system strengthening, and food security.
One of the issues that has gotten some people’s attention is diet and overdose. That’s right, food is being discussed in Montreal.
Many believe that the food system is the greatest contributor to terrestrial biodiversity loss, and that the pressure our diet exerts on biodiversity is significant. Watch your intake.
The “diet and overdose” movement, which involves actually reducing animal protein consumption, is supported by the EU but opposed by Paraguay, Argentina and Canada.
The movement itself seems to be heavily inspired by EAT-Lancet’s “Planetary Health Diet.” Half of it is made up of fruits and vegetables, with whole grains, unsaturated vegetable oils and plant-based proteins also playing a big role. Animal protein, including dairy and eggs, makes up about 10% of your diet.
The contribution of the animal protein industry to GDP is well over $60 billion. More importantly, the dairy industry contributes over $20 billion to the economy annually and relies on government-sanctioned quota systems to protect it. The same goes for chicken and eggs.
This administration has been incredibly defended by all political stripes in Ottawa for the last 50 years. No wonder Canada is against it. But of course you never know about Ottawa these days. Additionally, more than 35% of his current Canadian diet contains some form of animal protein. The diet proposed at COP15 devotes only 10% of the diet to animal protein.
This motion alone suggests that COP15 is to some extent persuaded by idealistic and radical views of what our food system should be. Also, according to some media reports, the discussion is not welcome.
Extreme environmental groups argue that lobby groups representing seed, chemical and fertilizer giants cannot attend COP15. They wonder why they were certified in the first place.
These groups literally believe they own the moral path to a greener planet, and no other group should have any influence.
Companies such as Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta-ChemChina, Synagri and Sollio are believed to be silent and excluded entirely from COP15.
This is out of the question. The ultimate aim of agri-environmental organizations is to make the world as a whole organic, which is neither sustainable nor desirable.
Input companies are also environmentalists, and so are farmers, and it is clear that they see agriculture differently. This he should echo at COP15.
Input companies, represented by groups like CropLife, have sustainable solutions and have some valuable research worth sharing. Technologies developed by some companies continue to keep our food more affordable.
2022 has undoubtedly been an unfriendly year for many of us who work in grocery stores. But without the efforts currently underway in agriculture, and without the support of major players, the food inflation storm could have been much worse.
Claiming to be the best approach we know of and excluding groups that may not share your views should be utterly reprehensible.
Some reporters have embraced the urban-centric ecological bandwagon for some time.
Agriculture is not about adopting one model over another. Organics are great, but they have limited scalability. Farmers are no longer just friends living happily in the fields.
The men and women who work in agriculture are smart, business-minded people who want to make a difference. They are also very aware of the climate challenges that lie ahead. we need to trust them.
We also need to listen to those who are empowering farmers to be the best environmental stewards.
Ultimately, it’s all about choice and food democracy. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the father of the current Prime Minister, once famously said, “There is no place for the nation in the nation’s bedroom,” in defense of the LGBTQIA+ community and the Charter of Rights.
Well, the same goes for our own kitchens. We must respect everyone’s diet and choices.
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