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Sustainable food

Long-term goal

Innovation and ingenuity contribute to a world-leading agricultural sector and food economy for the benefit of all Canadians

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Why is this issue important

Canada's food system, including agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and food and beverage processing, provides safe and healthy food for Canadians, helps ensure long-term food security, and is an important part of our economy. In 2016, the agriculture and agri-food system generated $110 billion, or close to 7% of Canada's GDP, and employed 2.3 million Canadians. Strengthening the agriculture and agri-food sector includes finding innovative ways to respond and adapt to new and emerging issues, and seizing new value-added market opportunities to ensure sustainable growth.

Our food is harvested on farmlands, caught in oceans and freshwater systems, hunted and gathered in the wilderness, or grown in our homes and communities. Protecting our environment, including freshwater and soil quality, will help ensure our food systems continue to feed Canadians and create jobs over the long term. New digital technologies will play a key role, enabling producers to provide more and healthier food with less environmental impact.

We also need to ensure that all Canadians, including those in isolated northern communities, have access to nutritious food. For Indigenous peoples, this includes traditional or country food as well as store-bought food. Indigenous peoples have unique considerations relative to food systems, and much higher rates of food insecurity compared to the general Canadian population. Recognition and support for self-determination of Indigenous peoples with respect to their food systems including traditional food, as one example of advancing reconciliation through a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

Food waste is another important issue for Canada's food system. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food waste accounts for nearly 8% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, stemming largely from the decomposition of food waste in landfills. In 2016 and again in 2018, G20 agricultural ministers highlighted food loss and waste as a global problem of enormous economic, environmental, and societal significance, and recognized that prevention strategies will help to meet the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 12, Responsible Consumption and Production.

Canada in the world

Canada is supplying sustainably-produced food to both Canada and the world. Ensuring sustainable food supports the 2030 Agenda and its global Sustainable Development Goals—in particular SDG 2, Zero Hunger; SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG 14, Life Below Water; and SDG 15, Life on Land. It also supports specific SDG targets, as well as other international agreements and initiatives.

Work under this goal supports progress towards the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada and the global conservation objectives of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity—in particular, by maintaining or improving the level of biodiversity and wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural lands, and maintaining or improving water and soil quality.

For details on how this goal supports international action, see Annex 3.

Connections with other FSDS areas

Ensuring sustainable food supports FSDS targets related to climate action, healthy wildlife, clean water, clean growth and sustainable communities:

Our partners

Agriculture is an area of shared jurisdiction and provinces and territories have a joint role to play in promoting a sustainable food system. For example, they deliver programming that encourages farm-level environmental stewardship and are primarily responsible for water management.

Aquaculture management is also a shared responsibility. We collaborate with other governments through the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers and will continue to work with interested Indigenous nations to identify potential aquaculture opportunities.

Communities and non-governmental organizations are active in helping to build sustainable food systems in Canada. For example, cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have launched food strategies that include measures to increase access to affordable and healthy food. Non-governmental organizations also contribute—for example, by collecting surplus food and distributing it to those who need it.

Canada's fishers and agricultural producers are responding to environmental challenges by adopting innovative technologies and practices to produce food while reducing impacts on the climate, water, soil and biodiversity. Farmers and ranchers are using integrated pest management approaches to reduce reliance on pesticides, keeping carbon sequestered in soil by decreasing tilling, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock through approaches such as changing the feed that animals eat.

Finally, the Protein Industries Canada supercluster, funded by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's Innovation Superclusters Initiative and matched dollar for dollar by industry, brings together industry, academia and not-for-profit organizations that are partnering to make Canada a leading source for plant proteins and address the demand for protein by emerging markets.

Partners taking action - Feedback

Restaurant owners have prepared food and ingredients that they simply throw away if they can't sell enough before close. This results in a lot of food waste. To tackle that issue, 2 cousins from Toronto have developed a mobile application to reduce waste in restaurants. Their app, Feedback, allows users to get access to time-sensitive deals during off-peak and end of day hours so that they can buy food that might otherwise be discarded, at a steeply reduced price.

Partners taking action - Walmart Canada's Zero Food Waste commitment

Walmart Canada has committed to zero food waste in its Canadian operations by 2025. To reach this goal, the company has implemented a 3-part Strategy that includes increasing food donations, providing philanthropic support, and improving operational efficiencies while enhancing value to the customer. This includes discounting repackaged bruised or peak-freshness produce through Walmart's $1/$2 Bag Program. To address the issue of food waste and food insecurity more broadly, the Walmart Foundation has granted $19 million to Canadian organizations engaged in research and innovative initiatives aimed at reducing food waste in Canada.

Responsible ministers/Key departments and agencies

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food; Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard/ Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Canada Border Services Agency; Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency; Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Health Canada; Indigenous Services Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada

Canada's starting point

  • To measure the extent to which agriculture in Canada is managed sustainably, we track indicators which assess the quality of water, soil, air and biodiversity. Going forward, we will track our progress using the new Index of Agri-Environmental Sustainability which reflects all 4 areas. The baseline for this combined indicator is 65, which is based on 2011 data. Our aspiration is to achieve a score of 71 or higher by 2030.
  • To measure the extent to which aquaculture in Canada is managed sustainably, we track aquaculture operators' compliance with Fisheries Act regulations. In previous years, compliance was assessed on the basis of formal charges laid against aquaculture operators. In 2015 and 2016, compliance based on charges laid was 100%. Going forward, progress toward our target will be assessed on the basis of violations detected during site inspections (including those of lower severity where no formal charges are laid). This method provides a more complete picture of industry compliance with aquaculture regulations and standards. Compliance based on violations detected was 85.1% in 2015 and 86.9 in 2016%.
  • To measure the agriculture and agri-food sector's contribution to Canada's economic growth, we track the percentage change of agri-food products sold. A target has been set of 4.5% change annually between 2017 and 2025.
  • To gain insight into the relationship between food consumption and health, we track aspects of Canadians' dietary consumption patterns, the levels of key nutrients in the food supply, and factors in the food environment that influence consumer behaviour. We also track rates of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases in Canada, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The economic burden of chronic diseases affected by diet and other modifiable risk factors is estimated at $26.7 billion annually in 2008 (adjusted to 2017 dollars).