Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Canadian Federal Election 2011: Of Food and Farming

So far this election, I have avoided reading blogs about food and politics as I wanted to read the platforms and form my own opinions and thoughts.  Tonight is the first of the debates and I am wondering whether any of the parties or leaders will get into one of the most basic needs. 

What is the role of the federal government in food?  It seems, by my perception, that it works to act as a mediator between agricultural producers (not farmers) and markets (not consumers or people who eat food -- everyone).  Regulations seem to be aimed at larger producers to ensure minimal food safety and maximum access to markets with some protection for the sustainability of the food supply thrown in.  Put another way -- How much money can be made by selling to which people without destroying the natural resource available? 

The other side of the coin is the health benefits of food and food products which is Health Canada`s bailiwick.   It always seems as if there is a struggle between known nutritional science and concerned corporations.  Food guides are political beasts.  Anything by Marion Nestle can destroy your good mood and belief in the idea that the goverment is their only to serve your best interests as an individual. 

The first and easiest `fix` would be to create a department of Food and Farming, deliberately reducing the Agri-Food influence.  Then the discussion could be around whether Agri-business belongs and what its position would be in terms of the other smaller players -- farmers, chefs, and all the rest of us.  It could act as a point to refocus what the electorate thinks the government should be doing rather than act as a guide to corporations to determine the discussion.

In the next few weeks, I will try my best to delve into the platforms and try to see where each party`s policy could make sense.  Being no expert, all I can offer is my opinion but having lived in a rural subsistence milieu, growing up with vegetable gardens, moving to big cities and seeing the rise of buy local; I believe I have some insight.  Barring all that, we all eat food--makes us all experts...I should think.

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