Food Politics

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The ways in which the food system is failing us are numerous. It is failing some in quantity, while failing others in quality. The only members of the food system that are not being exploited are the corporate food producers, and that is because they are the exploiters in this equation. Just like the schoolyard that we are all familiar with, there are two groups on the food system playground; the bullied and the bullies. In comparison to the schoolyard example, the bullies are in the minority, consisting here of transnational corporations and other large organizations with one goal in mind: profit maximization. In the majority are the bullied, consisting of not only the lowly consumers such as you and I, but also small farms and even government organizations.

While the present food system has many flaws that have led to this toxic playground relationship, there are solutions. We hope to clearly demonstrate where the food system is today, how this present food system is failing us, connections to the Antony and Samuelson text, and lastly solutions.

The term “food politics” refers to the political aspects of production, control, regulation, inspection, and distribution of food. Since biblical times, the government has played a dominant role in the production and control of food. The book of Genesis states: “the Egyptian pharaoh took 20 percent of all food production from his farmers as tax” (47:24). This demonstrates the regulatory role that the government has had in food production since the beginning of civilization. The key parties in food politics are consumers, farmers, food safety and quality regulators, retailers and the state. Today, customers demand affordable food, thus placing increased pressure on producers to mediate expenditures.

There is enough food to feed the world, and there has been for many decades. In 2007, the Food and Agriculture Organization calculated that there is enough food to feed the world 1.5x over (Holt-Gimenez and Patel 2009). While there is adequate food to end world hunger, the problem continues due to greed and unequal power distribution. International policies by the World Health Organization (WHO) have attempted to put an end to world hunger, but because the outcomes of these policies do not benefit the bottom lines of the state and of corporations, they are not supported (Paarlberg 2011).

In our own backyard, the Canadian government has removed restrictions surrounding property ownership regulations, thus facilitating the redistribution of Canadian farmland. As far back as 1969, there were recommendations from the federal government to reduce the number of Canadian farmers by 50 to 65 percent, encouraging the movement toward a factory-farming model (Paarlberg, 2011).

Factory farming is a model recognized for its increased efficiency and output in farming. This is when the quality of food diminishes. Low quality food is something every consumer encounters on a daily basis, however the ability to make decisions surrounding food quality choices is greatly dependent on economic standing. Despite the want to purchase high quality food, this may not be financially feasible.

Food imported and exported to Canada is inspected and regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which is “internationally recognized for its standards and principles” (CFIA). There are two major issues facing the CFIA. Firstly, their standards and principals are comparable to those of the United States, the most obese nation on earth and not a worthy role model. Secondly, as of August 2011, meat inspection methods have moved to a two-tier system due to budget cuts. The CFIA cannot afford to regulate meat nationwide and as such have relegated provincial sales and slaughter to that specific level of government and with it the ability to enforce consistent countrywide standards.

With common origins in the capitalist system the agro-food sector is arguably one of the most globalized in the...
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