Speakers and audience discuss future of global food supply
On Feb. 25, the College of Management and Economics (CME), along with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, invited Dr. Rick Yada of the University of Guelph to speak at a gathering held at the Guelph Holiday Inn. The presentation was titled, “The Future of Food: Advancing Health & Food Safety.”
As our planet’s population is projected to reach nine billion by 2050 and demand for agricultural produce is expected to rise by 60 per cent in that time, it is in our present day, according to Dr. Yada, that we must ask ourselves, experts, and government how we plan on keeping up with such great demand.
The discussion’s moderator, Associate Dean of the CME at the U of G, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, began the very inclusive, audience-oriented discussion by asking Yada what food safety means to him. Yada’s answer dealt extensively with the idea of sustainability, not just in an international context but also within the borders of Canada.
“We live in a world of extremes. On one end, we have type-2 diabetes and obesity and the other we have starvation,” said Yada. “What we are striving for globally is quality, quantity and choice.”
As the conversation developed, the ideas of education became a major speaking point for the audience and the presenters. Yada believes that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift, especially in the west, when it comes to food and food marketing, and we are seeing that the power of the consumer is driving the evolution of the products. We are saturated with information about eating healthier and the industry is adapting. But there’s a catch in these marketing ploys, explained Yada.
“There’s this idea that if you eat a certain food, you will never get ill.” Though those claims simply cannot be foolproof and can be misleading, Yada did admit there is a great benefit to this paradigm shift, pertaining especially to healthcare.
“We now have a population that is eating the ‘right’ foods as a form of preventative healthcare, not curative healthcare.”
As with any discussion relating to the future of agricultural production, the highly controversial topic of GMOs came up. Yada approached the manner in a levelheaded and practical way.
His biggest complaint was how GMOs are thrown into populations with little inquiry into whether the population wants it or how it will affect the environment it’s in, and that there is almost an absolute assumption by the creators of GMO that their seeds are just “better” and we ought to accept this claim without question.
But Yada didn’t outright dismiss the potential of GMOs.
“There is some benefit in being able to grow foods in a different manner. It’s an option but not necessarily a solution.”
The latter part of the conversation addressed the ability of getting food to nations with poor means of creating their own sustainable agriculture. Campbell’s Canada has tried canned food initiatives abroad, but as far as sustaining a program like that is concerned, it was impractical as many locals won’t take to a canned food approach.
Up until this point, many companies have had “a paternalistic view of philanthropic aid,” which according to Charlebois, hasn’t yet garnered much success.
The conversation was diverse and intriguing, and everything from the venue to the dialogue was exceptionally entertaining. But, as seems to be the case with conversations on food and sustainability, you end up leaving the discussion with more confusion and questions than you had coming into it.