Stepping Up to the Plate, for Food and Climate Change

Governments urged to accelerate shift to diverse, ecological food systems

The recent news of flooding in the global seed bank in Svalbard, Norway, was a wake-up call for the international community.  

“The lesson from the Svalbard flooding is that we can’t rely on singular solutions to protect us from climate change,” says Jane Rabinowicz, USC Canada’s Executive Director. 

“Climate stresses are not occurring in isolation. Our food systems themselves are part of the problem,” says Emile Frison of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (, and lead author of the report From Uniformity to Diversity: A Paradigm Shift from Industrial Agriculture to Diversified Agroecological Systems. Dr. Frison will be in Ottawa June 4-9 to discuss what Canada can do to support sustainable food systems at home and abroad.

“Our current food systems are dominated by input-intensive, crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots, that leave little room for diversity,” says Dr. Frison. “We have lost most of our crop diversity just in the last 100 years, and many of our pollinators are at risk. We have a food system that contributes almost one-third of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Add to this the challenges of degrading lands, waters and ecosystems, and it’s quite convincing that we need a shift to a model that favours diversity in our food system.”

Dr. Frison argues that the current system is locked in place because of policy and incentives that favour it, and prevent the shift from happening faster.

“Luckily, we already have a thriving, diverse movement of seed savers who are doing more than their part to protect our food future,” says Rabinowicz. “Farmers, Indigenous peoples, often led by women and youth, are really at the forefront of fighting climate change by preserving genetic diversity in their fields. The best way to save seed diversity is to have a diversity of people preserving it.”  

USC Canada’s program, Seeds of Survival, supports community seed conservation efforts — through seed banks, seed libraries and seed exchanges in 12 countries around the world, including in Canada.

“Farmers hold our future in their hands,” says Faris Ahmed, Policy Director at USC Canada. “They’re doing the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping biodiversity alive, but their efforts are going unrecognized. We need our governments to recognize and support their solutions, their innovation in all its diversity.”

Thriving local food systems help deal with both food insecurity and climate change. “There are all kinds of examples around the world, from community-supported agriculture, local food policy councils, to biodiversity in school lunches and gardens. Government policy needs to catch up to this ballooning trend,” says Ahmed.  

“The Canadian Government has just launched the consultation process to develop a National Food Policy,” he adds. “Here’s our chance to step up to the plate.”  


For information or interviews, please contact:

Sheila Petzold, Communications Director, USC Canada | 613.234.6827 x245 |
C.613 558 5487

Faris Ahmed, Policy Director, USC Canada | 613.234.6827 I 613.263.5671|

Source: USC Canada


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Tags: agriculture, agro-ecology, agroecolgy, biodiversity, climate change, doomsday, environment, farmers, food, food systems, seed bank, seeds

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One of Canada's longest standing international co-operation agencies, USC Canada works with farmers and local partners in 12 countries globally to support agricutural biodiversity, ecological farming, rural communities.

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