Climate change and the agri-business footprint

Cargill beef-processing plant in Schuyler, Nebraska. Image: Ammodramus/Wikimedia Commons
Image: Ammodramus/Wikimedia Commons

With the federal election behind us and a minority government in place, there may be an opportunity to push for expanding the climate change debate to include the impact that industrial agriculture is having on our environment.

It is going to take a firm understanding of the importance of supporting local food sources, small-scale agriculture, and how our knowledge of land use and food production can help mitigate climate change.

Will the NDP and Greens be able to push the climate change debate forward by working for policies that protect our food system and move away from agri-business?

After all, carbon emissions from agriculture contribute almost as much as fossil fuels to climate change. So what are we going to do about that?

We in Canada, in many cases, have had the luxury of choice, particularly when it comes to our trips to the grocery store. Even the poorest in our country have more choice than most people in this world. Don’t get me wrong — I think there are plenty of people in Canada who need a hand, better services, and quality food. The fact that we still have food banks in this country shows that we have many fundamental issues to deal with.

But that’s the crux — food banks, for example. People who are searching for food, trying to buy it or grow it, and who have a daily struggle to eat, do not have the choice of reflecting on how best to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Theirs is a daily struggle to find the food that will allow their families to survive. Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy, active life.

If we do not tackle agricultural emissions, who farms, and how we produce food, those stats will only get worse and fewer of us will have choices.

In an article for Wired magazine, Timothy A. Wise, the author of Eating Tomorrow, notes that if we are committed to reducing emissions created by agri-business not only will we need to change how we farm and who farms, but also directly challenge the corporate lobbyists protecting corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, Cargill, and Nestlé and fertilizer giants such as Yara, among others. The article notes that the conglomerates that control seed and artificial fertilizers are working hard to expand their control and ensure their profits, and in so doing expand their carbon emissions. Wise emphasizes that in order to curtail this carbon footprint, governments will need to roll back corporations’ economic hold on food production and break up their holdings, legally mandating their dissolution through more stringent government regulations.

In other cases, agricultural corporations, taking a page from the nuclear industry’s playbook, have wanted to be seen to be “cleaner” and on the side of climate change activists — strategically identifying opportunities to re-brand their corporate footprint by appearing to be working to safeguard the planet. Several “front groups” have been created over the last decade, and despite using the euphemism “climate smart agriculture,” many of them actually represent fertilizer and seed companies that are huge emitters of carbon emissions. The agro-fertilizer industry, like pharmaceuticals, is huge business. With the increasing knowledge that artificial fertilizers are not necessary to feed the world if sustainable practices are adopted, corporations such as Syngenta and Yara are working hard to confuse the issues to try to control the debate on agriculture and climate change. MORE

RELATED:

Regenerative Agriculture Could Help Stop Climate Change — Can Tech Help Us Get There?
Agriculture ‘key in meeting net zero carbon targets’

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