By John Jamieson
As someone who has worked in agriculture my entire adult life, I know firsthand that Canadians care about our food system and would like to know more about it. Our food system is a pillar of our trade and commerce and the foundation of many industries that make Canada one of the best countries in the world to live in.
Canada’s food system today is based on science, research, economics and rich experience. The agriculture sector has continuously adapted to meet our society’s demand for safe, reliable, quality food at a reasonable cost. Despite rising prices, our food remains affordable compared to much of the world.
There are checks and balances, rules, regulations and standards that make our food one of the safest to consume, if not the safest. Yet, when consumers hear the words genetic modification, plant breeding, pesticides and fertilizers, many believe they are intrinsically bad things. They are in fact, the tools we need to sustainably supply food to Canadians and maintain our ability to also feed people around the world.
Technology is also vital to steering the sustainability and growth of our national food production through the impacts of climate change. Rain, heat, fires and floods have touched every province. They are affecting our ability to produce food. Yet, we still have an enviable food system.
The best way to mitigate climate change is to have soil that is as resilient and healthy as possible. Our farmers recognize the need for reduced tillage, precision application of pesticides and fertilizers, planting cover crops that sequester carbon, judicious use of water and better genetics in the crops and animals we raise. A solid knowledge of how our food is grown and produced is necessary to know how to sustain it in the future.
Today, growing a bushel of corn requires 40 per cent less land, 40 per cent less energy, 50 per cent less water and produces 35 per cent less greenhouse gases compared to growing a bushel of corn in the 1980s.
If we were farming with 1960s technology, we would need another one billion hectares of land to produce the same amount of food we do today. Using advancements in technology and plant and animal breeding are allowing us to sustainably produce more food on less land.
For example, in the early 1900s the wheat Canadian farmers grew was shorter, took longer to mature and needed more water than the wheat we grow today. With a growing world population expected to top nine billion by 2050, we cannot restrict the ability of our food system to feed people in a sustainable manner.
As consumers, we all need to take an interest in our food system. According to the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity’s latest public trust research results, trusted sources of information are our farmers, research scientists and our government.
A better understanding of food production, its impact on our economy and environment, its challenges and the role government plays in regulating the industry will help us make informed decisions about how we support a sustainable food system.
John Jamieson is the president and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity.