By Jeff English
Canada’s Food Guide was updated this week and, not unlike anything done by government, it was met with a mixed reaction. The changes were not so big. We’ve gone from four food groups down to three. Given the year they’ve had on the trade front, it is easy to forgive our dairy industry for taking the elimination of dairy as a food group personally. But in all honesty this new food guide doesn’t really tell the public anything they couldn’t have solved with a quick Google search.
Avoid foods that are high in sodium. Meals made at home are typically healthier than processed foods. Healthier fats should be considered over saturated fats, and plant-based proteins should be given consideration over meat.
If you’re like me, you don’t regularly consult the government on what to eat. So, what’s the big deal?
For the first time, ag groups were excluded from the consultation process. The government’s argument was decisions should be made by scientists and relevant experts, not lobbyists.
Rather than refute this position, agriculture should embrace it – and demand more of it.
Agriculture is consistently pushing for governments to make decisions based on science over emotion. In the global debate on GM crops, science has taken a back seat to the will of powerful environmental lobby groups who oppose the practice, not based on science but based on ideology. Studies show GM crops are safe, friendlier for the environment, and can play a key role in increasing food security. Based on this logic they should be accepted worldwide. But they aren’t.
Consider too the current PMRA review on neonicotinoids. If it is relevant expertise that gets you through the door, we shouldn’t be hearing how the Sierra Club or Greenpeace feels about neonics anytime soon. Instead, the government would accept the peer-reviewed scientific studies that consistently demonstrate the environmental benefits of this targeted crop protection product. While I am not holding my breath on this one, it does point to a double standard.
Neither governments nor industry should be able to pick and choose when science matters. As much as I may wish it, a ribeye will never be lower in fat than a lentil (I would love to be proven wrong on this one). Agriculture can educate Canadians on the benefits of using a variety of foods for a complete diet, but there is just no way to get around the fact that water has less sugar than milk.
Going forward, Canada’s agriculture industry can hold the new food guide up as the benchmark for evidence-based consultation and demand that standard be met. In a world where heart rules over head – agriculture should support any process that favours the head.
—Jeff English is the public relations manager at Think Shift. He previously served as Director of Communications to former Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz