The Food Read Round-up: How does Canada’s food system measure up? Plus, what’s next with GM terminator seeds and why we should celebrate the International Year of Family Farming

Canada’s food system came in 25th in a global ranking.
Photo: Torsten Reimer (Flickr)
Creative Commons 2.0 Attibution, Non-commercial


The Food Read Round-up curates media stories about food and farming in Ottawa, across Canada, and around the world.

Canada ties for 25th place in world food system ranking

As residents of a safe, prosperous country like Canada, we may assume that we have a top-ranking food system.

In fact, a new report from Oxfam shows Canada’s food system lagging behind that of the UK (13th) and the US (21st), and tying for 25th place along with Brazil, Estonia, Slovakia and Hungary. The rankings were based on four measures: having enough to eat; food quality; affordability; and unhealthy eating. While Canada scored quite well on measures of food quality and affordability, we took a hit in the “unhealthy eating” category, based on high rates of diabetes and obesity.

Netherlands made the number one spot in Oxfam’s ranking, followed by France and Switzerland. Mexico tied for 44th place and China for 57th.

The goal of the report was look at global food conditions and obstacles to eating more healthfully. Despite ample food supplies, more than 840 million people go hungry every day, 2 billion suffer from nutrient deficiencies, and another 1.5 billion are overweight or obese, says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food safety system just squeaks through USDA audit

There was more negative press for the Canadian food system this month with the news that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) got the lowest passing grade in a 2012 safety audit by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Problem areas included oversight practices at meat facilities, sanitation and humane handling of animals.

Conducted on the heels of the massive 2012 XL Foods recall, the audit’s goal was to assess whether the CFIA could provide levels of food safety for red meat, poultry and egg products equivalent to US products.  Canada’s borderline grade means that future food exports to the US will face sharper scrutiny than products from countries with “average” or “well-performing” ratings.

The CFIA claims it has since fixed all the problems and introduced a plan to “develop and implement a sustainable internal inspection oversight role that allows for continuous system improvement ” (whatever that means).

Brazilian vote could threaten global ban on GM terminator seeds

Pressured by big corporate landowners and agribusinesses, Brazil’s congress will hold a vote in February on whether to allow biotech companies to sell genetically modified terminator, or “suicide”, seeds to farmers. The seeds are engineered to kill the crops after one harvest, forcing farmers to buy new seeds for each planting, threatening the livelihoods of millions of small farmers and making them dependent on giant seed and chemical companies such as Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta.

Right now, use of terminator seeds is banned under a UN treaty signed by more than 193 countries, including Brazil, which is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers. If Brazil overturns its ban, there are fears that other countries will follow suit, resulting in global adoption of terminator technology.

If you’d like to make your voice heard, there’s a SumOfUs petition you can sign.

It’s the International Year of Family Farming

The United Nations has designated 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. Its goal is to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming, highlighting their roles in providing sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty, improving food security and nutrition, and protecting the environment.  The initiative is supported by the World Rural Forum with support from more than 360 farmers’ and civil society organizations.

There are more than 500 million family farms worldwide. In developing countries especially, they represent 80% of all farm holdings and feed billions of people. Research suggests that by putting local knowledge and sustainable farming methods to work, family farming has the potential to boost yields and create millions of jobs.

Over the next 12 months, you can expect to see media coverage of reports, conferences and other activities focused on the obstacles and opportunities of small- and medium-size farming. For more information on the initiative and its upcoming events, visit sites such as the FAO, the International Year of Family Farming Campaign, the World Rural Forum, Food Tank, Via Campesina and Food First.

What have you been reading about the food system recently?

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