What is Behind Canada’s Fertilizer Planned Reduction?
Updated: Dec 25, 2022
Is the recent announcement by the Canadian federal government to have farmers reduce the use of fertilizers pure politics, or is there something else behind it? What will be the impacts?
At Sustainable Circular Economy we are not implying definitive impacts, but there are examples of what can happen when fertilizer use is reduced. For example, during the First World War, “imports of nitrates to Germany were hit (and) reduced agricultural output forced up prices,” The results were not pretty. Hunger stalked the Nation.”
THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
At Sustainable Circular Economy we are encouraging a new mindset when thinking about global warming, environmental protection, and positive action. Traditional thinking is typically linear – a good example is just coming out with a proposed action that suggests, “let’s just reduce the impact,” and think that is sufficient.
In terms of the recent Canadian federal government’s announcement, suggesting a 30% reduction in the use of fertilizer may not have the intended results. Here are a few questions:
1. Will it protect the environment, or will farmers be forced to increase conversion of more
land – and marginal land - to attempt to deliver the same volume? Will this support the
land to regenerate?
2. What happens to all the added people who will face food insecurity?
3. Will the production based upon the 30% reduction be sustainable? If farmers cannot make
a profit, then there is no sustainability.
The new mindset for looking at these issues is through the lens of a circular economy. “The circular economy gives us the tools to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss together, while addressing important social needs. It gives us the power to grow prosperity, jobs, and resilience while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution.”
In agriculture this could include more diversity in production, a reduction in food losses, transformation of organic by-products into useful materials and products, all of which are all key ingredients of a circular economy for food.
And importantly, not taking a linear approach which supports “Take the resource, make something from it and dispose when finished, the circular economy provides a framework to look at the impacts on People, the Planet and Sustainability.
Which is a better approach?
WHAT ABOUT IN CANADA?
In Canada, we have 4.4 million people facing food insecurity. What will happen to our citizens when the 30% reduction in fertilizer is fully implemented?
Food insecurity is the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints. It is a serious public health problem, (and) a marker of pervasive material deprivation. We assert three things will occur with a 30% reduction in fertilizer use:
1. There will be more people who will enter the realms of food insecurity strictly because of a
lack of supply, and;
2. There will be a financial cost over which others will not be able to buy, and;
3. In many instances the reductions will not be sustainable with a resulting loss of additional
production. The losses are not linear; as farmers hit a threshold they will drop out. Has
the cumulative effect been considered?
How will these impacts be offset?
WHAT ABOUT THE WORLD-WIDE IMPACTS
Canada produces 35.2 million tons of grain each year, or 4.6% of the world total. That 4.6% goes towards, in part, supporting 3.54 billion people in the world according to Our World in Data who are fed because of the use of fertilizers.
Canada’s production supports 163 million people. Reduce the production by 30% and the number of people left who cannot be supported by Canada’s grain production climbs by 49 million people.
And some of those will be right here in Canada. Not a pretty picture.
WHAT ABOUT THE IMPACTS TO THE PLANET?
Not all farmland is created equal. There may be a positive impact in part where land abandoned can regenerate. In other cases, marginal land may be brought into production having a negative impact.
And what happens if another country with less intense environmental regulations increases production? The use of fertilizer in Canada accounts for approximately 1.75% of the farming output of GHG emissions within Canada, and on the world stage, that drops to 0.003%.
The is a better way to look at this which includes People, the Planet and sustainability. At Sustainable Circular Economy we are available to help. All you need to do to begin a discussion of changing your businesses culture and mindset is drop us a note through our Contact Form.
Visit our website, sign up for our newsletter and we encourage you to be engaged. The issues of global warming, protecting the environment, food, people, planet and business success in the new environment, and sustainability, are too important to all of us. And if you wish some help in your business to begin your engagement to success, contact us through our Contact Form
Best wishes from all of us at Sustainable Circular Economy
 Imperial War Museum (2022). Rationing and Food Shortages During the First World War https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/rationing-an food-shortages-during-the-first-world-war Accessed 30 July, 2022.  Ellen MaCarthur Foundation (2022). What is a Circular Economy? https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview Accessed 31 07 2022  Proof (2022) Understanding Household Food Insecurity. https://proof.utoronto.ca/food-insecurity/ Accessed 30 July, 2022  Ibid. Accessed 29 07 2022
 Agriculture Canada (10 05 2022). Discussion Document: Reducing emissions arising from the application of fertilizer in Canada's agriculture sector https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/about-our-department/transparency-and-corporate-reporting/public-opinion-research-and-consultations/share-ideas-fertilizer-emissions-reduction-target/discussion-document-reducing-emissions-arising-application-fertilizer-canadas-agriculture-sector Accessed 30 07 2022.