shopping cart | The danger of extremes


PHOTO ANDRÉ PICHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

“Dairy producers are becoming increasingly powerful,” writes Sylvain Charlebois.

Sylvain Charlebois

Sylvain Charlebois
Senior Director, Agri-Food Analytical Sciences Laboratory, Dalhousie University, Special Collaboration

Despite the enthusiasm of recent years, consumer literacy in the food industry remains quite limited. And taking advantage of better nutritional policies becomes a problem.

Posted at 7:30am

Not a day goes by that a group or even a government doesn’t change the rules for farmers. In the name of the planet, animal welfare or even our own health, the rules are changing despite the knowledge and experience of our breeders and breeders.

This particular phenomenon occurs all over the world. Farmers have long been recognized as the best environmentalists in the world. After all, they live off land and animals. So why question their views on agricultural practices? Yet mounting evidence suggests that populist views, reinforced by social media, are slowly controlling our food policies around the world.

In the Netherlands, farmers protested and sprayed several public buildings with manure after politicians voted on proposals to reduce nitrogen emissions – a highly controversial move. The government justified this by saying that nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions from livestock near natural areas that are part of a transnational network of protected habitats for plants and endangered fauna must be drastically reduced. Such a policy may be justified by our desire to reduce pollution, but the context makes little sense.

Although the Netherlands is the world’s third-largest agricultural producer in terms of volume and second-largest in terms of value, the country’s government wants to halve its livestock in the face of a looming global food crisis in order to be able to comply with the nitrogen limits set. in Brussels.

The focus is on compliance with the new European Union regulations to reduce nitrogen pollution. According to some sources, in order to achieve these goals, farmers will have to reduce or even stop their activities. Compared to everything else in the world, these measures seem extreme.

On the other end of the spectrum, right here in Canada, dairy farmers are becoming more and more powerful. Just think of the strike currently taking place at Agropur in Quebec. For years, dairy farmers have claimed to be victims of strikes, pandemics and other unforeseen events… and we’ve always believed them. But in reality, dairy farmers waste between 100 and 300 million liters of milk every year, and this waste has always been implicitly acknowledged by the public, even as the price of milk increases at the grocery store.

Despite recent record increases in milk prices and families’ financial hardship due to food inflation, the consumer rarely questions our milk market as producers claim few will be affected. Although our quota system is designed to eliminate any possibility of waste, milk has been deliberately thrown away for decades, and Canadians accept it. This complicated debate is fueled by the orchestrated rhetoric of a lobby group known for its power and influence: the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Some politicians, academics and even journalists have paid a heavy price for criticizing the regime. The lack of debate allows extremists to dictate our agricultural and food policies.

Examples abound in Canada. In Ottawa, several committees, councils and working groups organized by Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and her ministry bring together like-minded people. pathetic.

Food policy is currently in jeopardy. Debates in the agri-food sector that have been marred by our collective inability to exchange ideas include discussions about glyphosate and genetic engineering, climate change, food labeling and global trade.

Largely because of social media coupled with a lot of very populist media, our widespread ability to know what is happening with our food policies has completely disappeared.

Even in the higher ranks of the universities, the culture of exile (cancel culture) spreads among colleagues and debates are not encouraged. The fear of losing all research funds outweighs everything else.

This situation can not only be observed in institutions. As citizens, we have gained the power over the past decade to share our views and comments of up to 140 characters across multiple platforms. But this new means of communication via social networks is proving to be more effective at destroying ideas than at building or evolving new concepts.

Consumers have access to more information, but this also makes society more intellectually vulnerable. While critics are often silenced, our policies are limited in scope. The cases of the Netherlands and Canada are at the two extremes, exposing us to almost implausible situations. To support a roadmap that leads us to better food policies, we must protect the dissenting voices that are often vehemently opposed by the masses on social media and elsewhere. Critics currently have no chance of being heard.

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