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  • Writer's pictureWayne Drury

Fragility of the world’s food systems

Canada has its 5.8 million and rising, and the world has about 3.1 billion people who cannot afford the food they need to eat for a healthy diet. Stating the obvious; that is about 40% of the world’s population.

Where are they?

We do not see them. Even the 5.8 million at home we don’t see them, other than if we are part of the hungry too and have to use food banks to survive. Out of sight, out of mind, like thinking we are doing the world a world of good by recycling electronic goods. A recent report on that showed that about 5% of what is intended for recycling is actually being recycled.

At Sustainable Circular Economy, a boutique environmental firm in Vancouver, our goal is to do the world a world of good by assisting communities and companies to evaluate their environmental decisions on the basis of a circular economy. If a decision is not built upon truth and consequence, looking at the impacts on people, the planet and sustainability, then can anyone say it is a “good decision?”

Too many times we hear about decisions that are clearly made for political opportunism and short on detail. At Sustainable Circular Economy, we suggest this shotgun approach to the environment has to stop. If we are to listen to the experts, we have 7 years left.

Most of the 3.1 billion people are in far-off lands; out of sight, out of mind and no discussion of truth and consequence to look at the impact on them.

Climate Change and Agriculture

Then, the issue of food security blew up. It became the 30-second sound bite. Remember the farmer protests? What is the impact of agriculture on climate change?

The Canadian government states, “Weather and climate are influenced by agricultural practices. By managing croplands and pastures, farmers influence a series of physical, chemical and biological interactions between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere that can affect air temperature and precipitation in many ways.”

In a nutshell, that is what is driving Canada’s response to fertilizer use – what is sadly missing is putting the policy into the context of “doing the world a world of good.”

Have you seen any discussion of truth and consequence? The impact on feeding the 3.1 billion people who face food insecurity every day?

Agriculture: Truth and Consequence

In a previous article, we discussed the truth and consequence where we found:

1. What (government) can do with statistics; the visualization depends on what is left out. And the two big ones, changes to land use and rice production have been were left out of the discussions.

2. In a report built upon more than one decade of study, McKinsey & Company analyzed Green House Gas (GHG) abatement[1] They have the top 25 measures to reduce on-farm emissions which have the potential to abate a reduction of about 20 percent of total emissions from agriculture, forestry, and land-use change.

3. The top 15 measures would contribute 85 percent of this emissions abatement and touch four major categories: energy, animal protein, crops, and rice cultivation. And, other than what Canadian farmers are already doing, nothing even makes the top 15.

Where is the truth and consequence? Government trying to force big change, with potentially little GHG impact, but huge impact on our ability to feed the population.

What happens to our food?

We all know that food is an absolute necessity and it comes to us in Canada from all over the world. It is picked and processed before it is ripe, it is packaged in plastics, stored and then transported.

Mexico to Vancouver may be doable, but what about Mexico to Inuvik? Trying to haul those “fresh” vegetables more than 5,000 Kms. Waste, cost, loss of nutritional value, livelihoods, culture, traditions, and politics, climate change and other things like and the Pandemic all contribute to food insecurity at home and abroad.

What has happened to food production?

Food production has become consolidated. A few countries now produce much of the world’s food. Africa, for example, has to import about 60% of its food needs and Canada imports about two-thirds of the produce it consumes. My question is “why?”

There may have been an excuse – climate and a lack of technology having a huge impact on where our food came from. But, now, there are reasonable examples of the benefits of vertical farming, that we need a discussion of the benefits, the consequences – the truth and consequence.

What if government focused on a policy regime that supported the development of the vertical farming sector. Just think of the benefits and impact we could have here and abroad.

The People – better access to quality food grown right at home.

The Planet – We have shown, on a project rejected by government, we could have removed tonnes of GHG from the atmosphere.

Sustainability – the project showed a positive ROI.

Government turned our First Nation project down for four communities and 5,000 people, because they said it “did not satisfy food insecurity issues.” If the above does not address food insecurity, what does?

Coming to the end

All good stories have to come to an end. With all that has happened, climate change, war, the Pandemic, the impacts on food distribution and cost, shows just how fragile the global food system is.

We have serious problems and they may only get worse unless we begin to look at solutions through the lens of a circular economy. At Sustainable Circular Economy, we promote truth and consequence as the framework for discussion towards developing solutions that are good for people, the planet and sustainability.

The final message? Participate. We engage with the food system every day. As consumers, we hold a lot of power; power in what we choose to buy. Do you make food purchase decisions based upon animal welfare, fair trade, healthy or sustainability? Your choices can make a difference.

Take control over the choices and let’s take a bite out of food insecurity starting here at home.

At Sustainable Circular Economy, we want to be part of the solution.

Best wishes

[1] McKinsey & Company (April, 2020). Agriculture and Climate Change. [‘ol=-i0u9 a2dftuio0p-=|0 cxzaer90o-p=[]’/ (Accessed 26 November, 2022).

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