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78th Annual Summer Conference, August 6–9, 2009

The Future of Food(s): What Will Our Children Eat?

Speaker: SUSAN WALSH, Executive Director, USC Canada and Seeds of Survival; IAN BURTON, University of Toronto environmentalist; and EMRUL HASAN, Plan Canada (bios)

Summary by Kestrel Wragget, CIPA Youth Scholarship Recipient

Ian Burton

The climate determines what farmers can do and grow.

Climate change: International organizations are trying to change a pollution problem by reducing emissions. In 1992 there was a feeling that we could control greenhouse emissions and did not realize how hard it would be.

A broader idea: Adaptation to agricultural practices to be more resilient and deal with climate variability.

Climate is an issue of development and global equity. The low latitude countries are the most likely to be effected by climate change.

The market/high tech approach to food vs. a more ecological approach:

The conflict of competition of land use for food or fuel is becoming an issue. We need to find ways that agricultural practices can produce less greenhouse gases and sequester more carbon. We need to raise awareness of a broader view of climate change.

Northern countries should give more assistants to the developing world.

How much money can be transferred to these countries without dictation?

The global food issue needs to be looked at in a new way of thinking.

The institutions that are involved in the issues are not adequate for the responsibility they are given.

The organizations should have started with an orientation towards global agriculture.

There is a huge difference between agricultural and food.

Food security depends on development patterns.

Health and education are most important in obtaining food security.

There needs to be a balance between market and non-market producers.

Emrul Hasan

The future of food looks very bleak and complex in a long-term view.

How do we feed our children?

In the time of the agricultural boom and dumping issues, 250 million people were still suffering from food insecurity, mainly children and women. This tells us that there are more elements than food security. Food availability does not mean that people have the means to buy the food. Many people do not necessarily have the money or the land to get food. Having surplus food does not mean people are able to access it. 80 % of small farm owners are women. We should have targeted programs that give more accessibility to technology and resources.

Trade: WTO and World Bank have been dumping on countries and not subsidizing the local farmers.

Restructuring governments in the food and agricultural sectors would help ensure food availability. We need to reform the international organizations that exist right now.

Canada is taking a leadership role in food aid through CITA.

A national food security policy would be governed by international organizations and it cannot be successful unless the small farmers sit on the board.

Researchers found that if there is no gender analysis on starvation and poverty, there can be no solution.

We need to start with a fundamental area, have the voice of the poor which are women and children. Have them sit on boards and stop wealthy countries from inversing power on the southern countries.

We need an international agreement to fight hunger and poverty

Susan Walsh

The majority of the hungry population is children.

This July, the government plans on spending billions of dollars to help the issues of global food security. We have two scenarios:

We continue with the existing tragedies with transporting food, using lots of fuels, planting monocultures, inject more genetic modifications into the system and investing more money into the nano technologies.

OR (the more appropriate) tap into the imaginations of people to work with nature and not against it. Determining long-term values that support the small farmer and the community in which the food is coming from. Only 6% of all rice produced is traded internationally. We have to make change in the ways we think, unfortunately, the international response has been lacking. The naivety of organics and the thought that African agriculture is “primitive” are skewed views.

The idea that western ways are the solution is a tired way of thinking.

The potato farmers in Bolivia are not doing well because the NGOs and the international organizations are not using the local peoples’ traditional ways to use the land. Instead, they are inflicting western world views. In order to be resilient, a community must have the means to sustain themselves. Some farmers will farm on different elevations using a range of landscapes and able to get the maximum yield in times of scarcity.

Dual land holding was considered a nuisance by the western culture and communities were told to stay on their own and increase production with imported, green revolution potatoes. 60% of the varieties of native potatoes in these communities were abandoned. The new potatoes grew well, but the sale price dropped heavily and the farmers needed to produce more potatoes to obtain a modest level of income. Women’s health deteriorated because they could not read the labels on the chemicals they were using.

The assistance we provided through international organizations did not help locals in the long run or make use of the centuries of local knowledge of the area.

The green revolution contributed to the concentration of land and resources. The genetic diversity of crops plummeted, as did the education and knowledge of the crop. Increased yields do not necessarily lead to food security. Communities that are starving, still often export huge amounts of food.

Free trade agreements do not benefit the developing countries, they allow for wealthy countries to exploit them.

Many of the imported potato seeds cannot handle the stress of local climates and are adapted to a different environment.

We need to allow the small holder farmers to use time-tested crops and need to invest in the stewards of the land.