Ottawa – Local food networks need to be fostered and agriculture policy needs to be balanced  if the government is serious about food security, according to Carol Hughes.  The Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, MP focussed on the concerns of local producers and the challenges Canada’s population faces with our reliance on global food suppliers in a debate on the Wheat Board Tuesday.

“This is more about food security than it is marketing or competition,” claimed Hughes. “Increasingly, we are tied to a system of food production and distribution that leaves us vulnerable to other countries - when we produce much of what we need ourselves.”

Hughes pointed out that most cities don’t even have a few weeks worth of food which leaves a large portion of the population vulnerable to factors beyond our control such as climate change and rising energy prices.

“This is a time when we should be developing plans to reduce our reliance on an overly complex food distribution system and using our energy to create better local networks to feed ourselves,” said Hughes.

Despite the obvious need for secure, local food production, the government is going in the opposite direction and endangering small producers in the process.

“Since 1988 Canada’s farm debt has tripled, we have lost 80,000 farms and seen a dramatic drop in the number of young farmers at the same time,” said Hughes.  “These phenomenons are the product of an agricultural policy that only values the big corporate interests and lacks appropriate incentives to help young people see the family farm as a viable way of life.”

Hughes concluded by sharing a message she received from a producer on Manitoulin Island who was concerned that his land had been invaded by a Genetically Modified crop which was frustrating his attempt to transition into an organically certified operation.  He noted that Monsanto could actually sue him if the plants were found to be growing on his land, but he did not have a reciprocal right to seek damages from them.