The Politics of Food
By David Merson
We tend to take it for granted, but everyday we all depend first and foremost on reliable sources of food and water. While me may be luckier here in Québec than in other places when it comes water, it has become hard to ignore the fact that agriculture, i.e. our food source, is in a state of financial, ecological, and social crisis.
In May 2006, the Charest government established a public commission on the future of agriculture in Québec, known as the Pronovost Commission or CAAAQ. Following almost two years of study and public consultations, the commission released its findings and issued a report suggesting major changes to the government's approach to our production and consumption of food and our use of rural lands.
In contrast with current governmental policies which favour industrial-scale production destined for export, the CAAAQ takes as premise that the first priority of agricultural activity is to use sustainable practices to produce high quality food for the local population. For example, the commission concluded that it will be necessary for us as a society to support organic farming and local marketing strategies such as Community Supported Agriculture and farmers markets, and for large public institutions to use sustainably produced local foods. As an organic farmer involved in the local food security movement, I was very encouraged by the commission's clear recognition of the importance that sustainable, environmentally-friendly agriculture has for the future of Québec's food supply. But...
Despite the progressive recommendations of the CAAAQ, the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPAQ) seems to be actively opposed to reconsidering its current model of agriculture. In fact, for a year after the Pronovost report was issued, MAPAQ took no action, until March of this year, when it appointed Michel Morisset as its sole consultant in drafting the government's new agricultural policy in light of the CAAAQ's findings. To the extent that the commission's report was encouraging, the appointment of Morisset to follow up on it was disappointing. Indeed, prior to his appointment, Morisset had been a well-known critic of the Pronovost report, and through his positions at a research centre and as owner of an agricultural consulting business, has deep ties with many of Québec's largest agribusiness players who stand to lose the most from a proper implementation of the CAAAQ's recommendations.
As concerned citizens, we need to let the government know that we want it to take the first step in insuring ourselves and future generations a stable supply of healthy food by putting the reforms recommended by the Pronovost Commission into practice.
Inform yourself: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/fr/presse/communiques/coalition-sos-pronovost (French website)
Write a message to Premier Jean Charest: https://www.premier.gouv.qc.ca/premier-ministre/nous-joindre/courriel-formulaire-en.asp
And to Agriculture Minister Claude Béchard: email@example.com
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