MONTREAL, September 27, 2023 - A new study by the Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine (IRÉC), in collaboration with Équiterre, Collectif Vital and the Canada Research Chair on Inequalities in Nutrition and Health, demonstrates that Quebec’s food autonomy as currently developed will not enable us to feed Quebecers in a healthy and sustainable way in the future. The study proposes a number of solutions.
"Over the past 50 years, Quebec's food autonomy has fallen from around 75% to 35%1, and the government's current vision does not reverse the trend."
-Carole-Anne Lapierre, Agronomist and Agriculture and Food Systems Analyst at Équiterre
The IRÉC study highlights the essential but missing pillars for achieving healthy, sustainable food autonomy. It looked at ultra-processed food chains (potato chips, frozen pizza and yogurt) and at emerging crops, in order to illustrate the potential for government action.
1 Self-sufficiency ratio: (production/consumption) x 100
A necessary redefinition
According to Équiterre and its partners, the objectives for what kind of food autonomy Quebec wishes to achieve, must be redefined.
"Some consider that producing chips and frozen pizza, processed here with imported or even local ingredients, is a means of building food autonomy. Though that's not entirely untrue, the study shows that these examples are neither environmentally sustainable nor beneficial to people's health," explains Carole-Anne Lapierre.
"We all like to eat potato chips from time to time, but we need to seriously question the deeper meaning and objectives of food autonomy, which is currently being discussed without ever having been clearly defined," she adds.
If Quebec is to achieve healthy, sustainable food autonomy, adapted to the challenges of the 21st century, the government will need to enact meaningful policies towards these two objectives:
Food autonomy must contribute to the ecological transition, from land to plate. We must develop more local emerging crops, which are beneficial to soil health, and we must substitute their imports with local production, by developing the sector.
Food autonomy must focus on human health. WE must reduce the proportion of ultra-processed foods on our menus in order to develop more options for healthy, minimally processed foods, produced and processed locally. Labeling and traceability are essential to help consumers identify and choose these foods.
"We're seeing it with the battery sector at the moment - where there’s a will and the resources, the government can develop a sector quickly. We need the political will to use this expertise in the agri-food sector," concludes Carole-Anne Lapierre.
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