New temporary definition of local food is concerning

MP Jean Crowder says the new temporary definition stretches what most people consider local.

One of my favourite summer activities is going to farmer’s markets and trying some of the incredible local foods available to us on Vancouver Island.

Ladysmith’s community sustainability plan includes biodiversity and food as two of the eight pillars the plan is built on:

• Protect and enhance the ecosystems and biodiversity locally, regionally, and globally

• Support a more sustainable food system, including increasing local food production, processing and consumption

It is clear that access to local food is important for communities on Vancouver Island.

That’s why I’m concerned that a recent decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to establish a temporary definition of local food for labelling ignores what communities like Ladysmith have done to promote sustainability.

The CFIA changed the previous definition of 50 kilometres from point of purchase to anywhere in the same province and within 50 kilometres of provincial borders.

For a large province like British Columbia, that definition stretches what most people consider local.

New Democrats believe food labelling helps Canadians make informed choices about the food they consume and we do support improvements.

But this decision does not reflect the work of many farming organizations or food security groups who are urging governments to support local food.

That’s why New Democrats are saying the CFIA must work with the Canadian public and food producers to ensure that we all know where our food comes from.

The NDP believes that easy access to local food is critical to Canadians’ health and prosperity. The distance that food travels should be reduced, and local production should be encouraged as much as possible.

However, given Canada’s size and diversity, some foods are best produced in specific regions and promoted across the country.

A smart approach to labelling will empower Canadians to make informed choices and help us celebrate what Canada has to offer.

And labelling that reflects the needs of Canadian consumers — who care deeply about where their food comes from — can be part of a national food strategy to better meet our food security needs.

To learn more about this new temporary definition and how you can make your opinion known about changes to food labelling, go to my website at www.jeancrowder.ca and follow the links.