Recognition of changing consumer demands for nutritional value, animal welfare and environmental protection is cause to be hopeful that food production can change for the better, says columnist. (Stock photo)

Recognition of changing consumer demands for nutritional value, animal welfare and environmental protection is cause to be hopeful that food production can change for the better, says columnist. (Stock photo)

Column: Sustainability, resilience needed in food systems

Imbalance between people and planet requires complete overhaul, says columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

Now that we are living with COVID-19 and may be emerging from aspects of lockdown, the hot topic is the economy, jobs and incomes.

The inertia of the old normal pulls us back to the practices that produced the pandemic, including a banking system that is incapable of distributing fair shares to all who produce profit and an industrial agriculture system that is one of the culprits in the destruction of wildlife and habitats, along with urban sprawl and encroaching megaprojects.

The instability of the three-pillar model of enviro-socio-economic development (people, planet and profit) fails because economy/profit is a subset of social/ people activity. The imbalance between people and planet requires complete overhaul of the behaviour of people to avoid further catastrophe. Catastrophe already came with COVID-19, as suddenly as a highway pile-up.

The changes in how we are feeding ourselves (that is, those of us who are not starving) still depend on commodities produced with old normal methodology. Cheap fast food take-out trundles on as soon as simple protective measures are in place. Big technology is simply getting bigger with vaccine races, research into 3D and other ersatz foods. Charity will continue to treat results rather than causes.

‘The Future of Food and the Primary Sectors,’ a discussion paper out of the New Zealand Centre for Informed Futures, has some laudable goals and practical suggestions but it is the result of conversations between “industry leaders, scientists and stakeholders,” therefore likely to be too little and too late. Still, the idea of a national approach to the food sector as “an interconnected whole, encompassing agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture and fisheries and ranging from production through distribution, marketing, selling, consumption and disposal” has some merit. The paper holds out some hope that “Farmers and producers are already shifting to position themselves for a future based on the values of sustainability, resilience and [guardianship].” And recognition of changing world consumer “demand for ‘credence attributes’, such as safety, nutritional value, animal welfare, carbon footprint and environmental protection” holds out some hope.

COLUMN: Vulnerability to global disasters is our own making

Swedish organic farming specialist, Gunnar Rundgren, debunks the claim that peasant operations produce 70 per cent of the world’s food, noting that peasant farmers are dependent on staples such as salt, sugar, vegetable oil and other commodities from industrial sources. But then he states that there is “no need to inflate the figures to prove that small farms can produce sufficient food” because of “research in the U.S. which shows that yield per hectare also for a staple crop like corn is more or less the same in small farms as in bigger ones” and describes how in Sweden, “the farms of 1949 used considerably less fossil fuels, artificial fertilizers, tractors and imported soy to produce almost twice as much milk. In some regards they were much more efficient than the prevailing production.”

This reminded me of my husband’s memories of how Island small dairy farmers sold their milk, cream and butter into a distribution network that supplied everyone.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairperson of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

COLUMN: Sustainable society based on foundational services

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ladysmith’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 29 responded to the fire. (Gerry Beltgens photo)
Boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

(Black Press file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Wexford Creek home in Nanaimo declared over

Social visits resume at south Nanaimo facility today, Feb. 27, says Island Health

(News Bulletin file)
RDN warns residents not to give financial info over phone

Resident hung up and called RDN after receiving call for credit card information

(Black Press file)
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools reports COVID-19 exposure at Cedar Elementary

School district says Island Health has completed contact tracing

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
All B.C. Ferries sailings cancelled due to winds, adverse weather

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read