Raise a Glass for World Milk Day!

When you picture a glass of milk in a child’s hand in Canada, it might not lead you to think about the one billion people around the world who derive their livelihoods from the dairy sector. In fact, livestock, including dairy, is often a portal of entry to agriculture and food security for many small families who may not have access to land to farm. A cow that provides fresh milk or a chicken that produces eggs, can be a way, often for women to provide regular food to their family and ultimately to earn an income. Over 37 million dairy farms are female-headed making them a major part of dairy production systems and think about the multiplying impacts on their families.

Also, the importance of the dairy sector in economic terms is not limited to producing milk. There are many great examples of projects working to help create value addition through milk. It can be a simple as having a cooling facility to allow milk to get to market in programmes like those run by TechnoServe and Heifer International. In one East African programme alone, they are working with 136,000 smallholder farming families in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania to sustainably improve their livelihoods by 2018, while stimulating income growth for an additional 400,000 secondary beneficiaries.

Another example is India where milk is largely produced by smallholders. The Indian government led a “White Revolution” that has helped increase smallholder production so now the per capita availability of milk has increased from 176 grams per day in 1990-91 to 322 grams per day by 2014-15. It is more than the world average of 294 grams per day during 2013. This is incredibly important in a country where milk is a vital source of protein.

The sacred role of milk in India is thousands of years old, coupled with population growth and income growth it drives the needs for more long-term sustainable milk production. Around the world, consumption of dairy products is expected to increase by 20% or more before 2021, according to FAO and OECD. So dairy will be central to meeting food security.

The role for milk in child and mother nutrition is often underestimated in particular. There is good evidence that milk and other dairy products are necessary for preventing micronutrient deficiency in vulnerable population groups (women, elderly, children-particularly in the first 1000 days). For instance, young children need the nutrients that milk provides because their developing skeletal systems replace bone mass about every two years until they reach maturity! We all grew up knowing the importance of milk for protein, potassium, and magnesium. In many countries, dairy products are fortified with vitamin D since our body needs it to absorb the calcium. These are only a few of the many reasons why milk, and its dairy derivatives, is produced and consumed in almost all the countries in the world.

So in 2001, the FAO declared World Milk Day to take place every June 1 to mark the importance of dairy and its benefits of milk for our lives.

In 2016, World Milk Day was celebrated in over 40 countries. The fact that many countries choose to do this on the same day lends additional importance to individual national celebrations and shows that milk is a global food and that it is part of all diets and cultures.

Whether milk is a breakfast drink that goes with your porridge or tea in the morning or is celebrated in a glass on its own, we encourage you to “Raise a Glass”. This universal gesture of celebration lies at the heart of all communities.

Last year’s activities included holding marathons and family runs, milking demonstrations and farm visits, school-based activities, concerts, conferences and seminars, competitions, and a range of events focusing on promoting the value of milk and illustrating the important role played by the dairy industry in the national economy.

An event can be as simple as drinking milk or finding your perfect pairing of dairy on June 1 and sharing this moment through social media. You can register your event.

  • Join our Thunderclap so your social will automatically support the campaign on June 1
  • Use the Twitter hashtag #WorldMilkDay to be sure to be recorded as part of our TINT feed (a social media aggregator)
  • Capture images of your event: Take pictures of people drinking milk and raising their glasses, post them on social media with #WorldMilkDay
  • Tell us about your event: You can write a blog post before and after the event telling about why you are involved in celebrating World Milk Day in 2017.
  • Record your event: Any type of video content (edited and non-edited) showing what your event looks like can be sent to us to be uploaded on social media platforms (#WorldMilkDay on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram)

Canada’s new investment to support food safety and a reformed Codex Alimentarius

During the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting held in Berlin on January 22, the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay, met with the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Dr. José Graziano da Silva, and announced a contribution of $1 million to support international bodies that develop the standards for food safety and plant and animal health. This new investment will go towards scientific and technical work of the Codex Alimentarius and the International Plant Protection Convention, supported by the FAO, and the World Organization for Animal Health in their efforts to promote a safe, fair and science-based trading environment. This will be added to Canada’s ongoing financial voluntary and membership contributions to the FAO to support its work to improve global food security, agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. 

The importance of the Codex Alimentarius relies on the crucial role it plays in enabling trade in agricultural products that benefits both producers and consumers. One of its responsibilities is to set standards in terms of international pesticide Maximum Residue limits (MRLs). Recognition of the importance of the Codex’s role in establishing MRLs has led to recent efforts by its members to improve its functioning and, since 2007, the time of the MRL elaboration process was reduced from over 10 years to approximately 2 years. Yet, it is still too much. 

Ideally Codex MRLs should be established soon after a new active ingredient or new use is approved by a national authority and in use on crops entering international commerce. For this reason, delays in the establishment of MRLs, or the failure to develop them, and the resulting lack of harmonisation affect badly market access, productivity and farmer livelihoods. MRLs are needed to make registered products useful to farmers who wish to trade, or must trade. If there is no Codex MRL in place, importing countries can apply zero or near-zero default tolerances for residues of products.

Financial contributions like the one offered by the Canadian government are very much needed to enable the Codex to perform its role effectively by addressing current capacity challenges and ensuring that adequate resources are available to supporting global food security. 

Global Dialogue Series: Eliminating Food Loss and Waste (FLW)

One-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, and it costs around $940 billion dollars each year to the global economy. Food Loss and Waste happens through the entire value chain, but it is greater nearer “the fork” in the developed regions and nearer “the farm” in developing regions. Moreover, FLW contributes around 8% of the global GHG emission which in the context of scale, would be the third largest contributor of GHG behind China and USA. 

I recently participated in the Global Dialogue Series on Food Loss and Waste hosted by the UN Global Compact. The series are online discussions, informing the development of short briefs designed to support business engagement in support of food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture in the context of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 –Reduce per capita global Food Waste and Loss by 50% by 2030.  

The invited panel for the series on FLW were stakeholders from the UN Global Compact, the Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO), and the World Resource Institute (WRI). The private sector was engaged as well with participation from Tesco, Campbell, and Danone who are leading the charge on FLW through concrete strategies and actions. 

Addressing this major issue calls for more sustainable productions and consumption model. Business has a critical role to play in this regards. By being transparent, setting targets, measuring waste, prioritizing and implementing corrective actions, increasing education & awareness, and forming partnerships, businesses can have a tremendous positive impact on the elimination of Food Loss and Waste. 

 

 

Time for Action on Food Waste

After spending the last 10 years meeting the needs of consumers and clients in the Food Service industry, my first visit to the United Nations at their headquarters in New York to participate in Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) conversation on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was stimulating and inspiring.

We are facing some of the most important decisions related to our collective future on one of the most rudimentary pillars of our society, food & and its security.  The fight to achieve food security, malnutrition and end hunger is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today and in the coming years. Globally, close to one billion people are undernourished and a further billion are overweight or obese.

Rising populations, diminishing resources and deteriorating environments only raise the stakes. In a world where one third of the food we produce is thrown away, we cannot help but ask ourselves the question: Could food wastage and hunger be an expression of the same problem?

Navigating through so many countries, regions, cultures, environments and needs is not an easy task by any means. However, considering the urgency and magnitude of the issues, the UN member countries, in late 2015, signed off on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would provide the impetus to address these global challenges, including three Goals (2, 3 and 12) focusing on Food Security, Health and Waste, respectively.

The emphasis now must be on building a firm and durable foundation for the engagement and participation of all stakeholders, including the private sector, academia, civil society and non-governmental organizations, in the process of taking effective actions for the implementation of the Goals. Agreed targets and standardized measurement mechanisms are fundamental and critical to the firm and durable foundation that we seek to underpin the success of these efforts. 

Our world is digitally and socially very connected. However, awareness of this looming crisis and its criticality is relatively negligible. It’s time to activate our networks and use this opportunity of the SDGs to generate awareness that can translate into tangible actions.

I feel excited and energized to be part of a team at Emerging Ag that is as passionate as I am about encouraging entities in the agriculture and food sector - global, national and local - to drive this change and be active stakeholders in securing our future on food for generations to come.

Let's be BOLD on International Women's Day

Today we are celebrating International Women Day #IWD2017. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange! Being bold is indeed what women need to do to take their destiny in their own hands. 

Change will not happen organically and it will not happen in our lifetime if all of us women don’t question every day the status-quo.

WE have to be bold to refuse the archaic roles assigned to women in the family and in the professional life.

WE have to fight for maternity leave, equal pay, equal treatment, and equal work in the home.

WE have to fight against harassment, violence and discrimination.

WE have to be kind to each other and show solidarity to all the women around us who may need our help.

WE have to teach our sons that men can change also be bold and take a stance every day for girls and women.

WE have to encourage women around us to be very bold and become politicians because they will shape the future laws of our countries for our benefit. 

I am proud to be working for a bold and visionary company that is 100% woman-owned and that employs 12 women and 2 men from all regions of the world, all ages, so many cultures and faiths. I wish there were more companies like the one I work for. I wish we all had more female role models and mentors. I wish more women were as lucky as I am allowing me to live fully my life as a professional working woman while raising two children on my own.

May every day be International Women’s Day!!!

 

Feed the Truth

Depending on where you were born, when you think about famous Mexican figures different names might come to mind: El Chapulin Colorado, El Santo, Benito Juárez, Emiliano Zapata or Frida Kahlo. You might know some of them, but you may not have heard of Daniel Lubetzky. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Daniel is a Mexican-American entrepreneur, author,activist, founder and CEO of KIND Healthy Snacks (KIND). 

On February 15th, Daniel Lubetzky announced the launch of Feed the Truth. Established as an independent organisation, Feed the Truth will seek to improve public health by revealing and counteracting the food industry’s undue influence in shaping nutrition policy and ability to disseminate biased science, in addition to other activities that are detrimental to public health. “We’re eager for Feed the Truth to step in and hold all of us in the food community accountable for what we say and claim,” said Lubetzky.

To ensure Feed the Truth’s independence from KIND, Lubetzky will remove himself entirely from all activities and governance of the new organisation. Feed the Truth’s independent Board of Directors, once established, will seek to ensure consumers have access to unbiased nutrition information.

It may not be surprising that talent runs in his family, he is the cousin of the 3 timeOscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki, who was the first person to win in three consecutive years in the category of Best Cinematography. But that is another story.

Eager to learn more and get involved? Visit FeedtheTruth.org or read the full press release here.  

P.S. If you want to learn more about his cousin, I recommend watching the Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Although, my favourite movie by Emmanuel Lubezki  was “A Little Princess”, which has a special link with food, truth and love.

 

Happy Agriculture Day Canada!

Think about what you did today, yesterday or even last week. Did you order a burger at lunch? Pour milk in your morning coffee? Walk past a tree? Whether you thought about it or realized it at all, agriculture touches us daily. It is all encompassing and includes everything from the raising of livestock, the growing of crops, to the maintaining of the soil.

The cultivation of land for food dates back, in our recorded history, to the 15th century when Samuel de Champlain, the “Father of New France,” came to Canada and first noted that the Huron and Iroquois nations were cultivating the land and growing foods such as corn, potatoes and squash1. As the east was developed, settlers were able to move west and soon indications of small scale farms were evident, with the first coming up near Lake Athabasca, Saskatchewan in 1778. Since then, the growth of agriculture across the country has been immense.

Today, according to statistics produced by the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food System, it is estimated that 2.2 million Canadians have jobs that fall under the umbrella of agriculture, that’s every 1 in 8 jobs! Now, this doesn’t mean that these individuals are out in the field everyday. It could mean anything from animal nutritionist, researcher, or land agent to seed sales. The agriculture sector of Canada contributes approximately $100 billion to our annual GDP, that’s more than some countries overall GDP2.

Farming is a multidisciplinary way of life that began as a solution to providing needs for growing communities. Today it touches every life across the country every single day, with many people not even realizing the impact it has and the work of those around them that make their meals, clothing, and environment the way they are today.

We love our Canadian grown products and the people who help make all of these developments happen and we want to share that with the world. Join us on February 16th, 2017 as we come together and celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day! For more information visit: www.agriculturemorethanever.ca/cdn-ag-day/

Spread the Word: #CndAgDay; #AgMoreThanEver, #RealDirt

 


References:

1. Farming. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.canadiangeographic.com/atlas/themes.aspx?id=farming&lang=En
2. AgFacts: Agriculture and The Economy. (2015, August 14). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/about-us/publications/discover-agriculture/agfacts-agriculture-and-the-economy/?id=1355435809830

Trading is the Spice of Life

The Spice Islands. Malabar. These names evoke historical ties to distant lands, exotic tastes, and thrilling adventures. The spice trade was the foundation of globalism and multiculturalism before we talked about such things.

These traders have always been ethnically diverse, creative and co-operative to ensure the spices are shared around the world. So it was a great thrill for me to join them at the International Spice Conference in Kerala, India. Kerala is one of the biggest spice producing regions, and I will note the food is every bit as wonderful as one might imagine from a land where turmeric, cumin and curry leaves are common.

But the spice trade doesn’t just aim to challenge your taste buds and make you healthier with curcumin, it turns out the world’s most global trade also wants to open your mind. Under the theme “disrupt or be disrupted,” they looked at everything from new delivery technologies to the ways to provide better incomes to small farmers. It was suggested farmer incomes should go up at the same percentage as the value of product, and who couldn’t agree? Just think about smallholders picking chilis by hand. They contemplated ways to address consumer trends that seek “local” food but want exotic tastes. It’s especially challenging when you consider a clove tree won’t just grow anywhere.

These competing forces are even more complex when you layer on a tone of trade protectionism and disruption. International cuisine is part of any millennial’s day. They would consider hummus, or a curry, just as much a part of life as a hamburger. However, to meet those tastes, spices will need to move around the globe just as much as they ever have – probably more. To do that, they need trading systems that work.

At the core of that is Codex Alimentarius, a global system to set food safety standards. At its heart, Codex should provide global science that makes it possible to trade among 188 countries with assurances of known, agreed food safety levels for consumers. Without this, trade devolves into a chaos of 188 nations with no known or consistent standards. Suddenly a cardamom farmer in India is supposed to be able to meet countless combinations of standards. 

This is particularly challenging for small crops like spices. What resources do exist in Codex get focused on big crops like rice and corn. That is why we need better budgets for Codex - particularly so the vital technical committees can work more efficiently. 

Certainly my food wouldn’t be the same without ginger or oregano or pepper. So mobilizing new, regularized funding of Codex, supporting a catch up plan for the backlog of science reviews and getting serious about using electronic systems to share data reviews are just a few steps to make the system better.

All of it underpins the access for some of the world’s smallest and most exotic farmers to markets. Plus, for me as a consumer, while that local apple will be a great purchase, its even better with a little cinnamon on it.

International Spice Conference

Spices have driven exploration, trade, and globalism for millennia.  So it is a great honour to go to Kerala India to speak at the International Spice Conference. I’ll be addressing a pressing issue for global movement of food:  the need for Codex reform. 

Facilitated by Geemon Korah, my fellow panelists are Ramesh Bhat, a food safety expert, and Milan Shah, a leading spice trader and member of Gafta. Together we hope to explain some of the realities of getting timely and proper MRLs in place and to talk about the Codex Reform coalition which has been formed to urge the changes that are needed in Codex functioning.  In particular, significant back logs and lack of groupings for smaller crops, as well as ongoing resource issues have slowed the system and impeded trade.  Without a globally harmonised system, the beautiful spices that make our meals a joy and provide valuable health benefits, will find movement of products difficult.

 Learn more here.

 

Keeping Agriculture in the Climate Change Discussion

As I look back on 2016, it seems fair to state it was a tumultuous year. We saw Brexit, Trump, Duterte, economic slowdown in China, global unrest, and so much more. Alberta (my home province) was no exception. In 2015, the 40 year reign of our conservative party ended and was replaced with the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Alberta. It wasn’t really until 2016 that we saw the NDP government begin to develop and implement their new policy and legislation. This, combined with a new liberal federal government in Canada has led to an unprecedented political landscape in Alberta. Recently, our new government has implemented a carbon levy. For context, Alberta is known in Canada as oil country, this industry accounting for almost 20% of Alberta’s GDP1. And as such, we have higher greenhouse gas emissions than the average province, the highest to be exact2. As of Monday this week, a carbon levy is now being charged on all fuels that emit greenhouse gas emissions when combusted at a rate of $20/tonne in 2017 and $30/tonne in 20183. The rate is based on the amount of carbon pollution released by the fuel when it's combusted, not on the mass of fuel itself. It is important to note that the Canadian federal government is implementing a minimum nationwide price starting at $10 per tonne in 2018 and increasing to $50 per tonne by 2022. So this carbon levy would impact Alberta whether or not the NDP government implemented it, albeit at a less aggressive rate.

While much of the focus of this new bill has been on how it will impact our primary industry, oil and gas, it also impacts numerous other sectors, in particular, agriculture. The agriculture industry represents 8% of GHG emissions in Alberta4. This is a substantial portion that should be mitigated, but done so in a way that does not crush this important and very present industry, particularly with food security becoming a greater issue globally. An example of how important agriculture is in Alberta is Alberta beef. Alberta is known as the heart of the Canadian beef and cattle industry. Currently, 40% of all cows in Canada reside in Alberta, 70% of the feedlot capacity resides in Alberta and it contains 70% of the processing capacity in Canada5. About half of provincial agricultural emissions are primarily from the cattle sector and the other half from the cropping sector. This means both livestock and crops are going to be heavily impacted by this new levy. Understanding that this new levy would significantly influence many of our farmers, the provincial government has exempted farm fuel from the carbon levy, but, other costs such as fertilizer, crop protection products, etc., will still be subject to it. For businesses like Agrium, a company that develops, produces, markets and sells agricultural products and related chemical products, and is the third largest employer in Alberta, this represents a significant cost6. Additionally, some primary producers have shown concern that they will not be able to pass down the cost and will have to absorb it into their already tight margins. It is important to note that GHG emissions are a present issue in Alberta that must be addressed, but doing so in a way that continues to encourage economic development and protects some form of industry is important. This is why it is imperative to have continued engagement with the agriculture industry by the government going forward. It is too soon to tell the full impact the new levy will have on our farmers but I hope that with continued interaction between government and farmers we will be able to reduce our environmental footprint while promoting new and innovative ideas that will maintain this vital industry.

Our current situation in Alberta is a microcosm for trends we are seeing globally.  At COP21 in Paris, nearly 80 percent of the countries said they would use agricultural practices to curb climate change, and more than 90 percent said they would use those practices in addition to changes in forestry and land use linked to farming7. Agriculture backs many countries' economies and this sector is increasingly under threat from weather extremes, in particular drought and floods. In other words, as was the motto used by the FAO for World Food Day this year: “the climate is changing, food and agriculture must too”. Because farming practices can produce large amount of emissions, this industry has a significant yet unrealized potential to mitigate climate change. Whether this happens through farm practices, such as soil carbon sequestration through cover cropping, or by knowledge sharing between countries and within countries, agriculture needs to be a part of the climate change discussions. In our efforts to protect our environment, we want to ensure we are not crushing this important sector which is key to addressing food security issues, combating poverty, and ensuring good nutrition globally.

References: