Over half of Canadians worry about climate change’s impact on food: survey

Click to play video: 'Stormy, wet weather has given Quebec crops a beating, now farmers are calling for help'
Stormy, wet weather has given Quebec crops a beating, now farmers are calling for help
WATCH ABOVE: Quebec farmers are speaking out about what they’re calling an unprecedented and disastrous season. They say the massive amounts of rain the province has received has been drowning their crops and it’s costing them millions. – Aug 4, 2023

More than half of Canadians are either very or extremely concerned about the impact that climate change could have on food security, a recent survey has found.

In partnership with Caddle, the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University surveyed 5,450 Canadians about their eating habits during the summer or hot weather and measured how climate change is impacting perceptions related to food security overall. The survey was conducted in late July.

“It (the survey) revealed that 52.3 per cent of Canadians are either very or extremely concerned about climate change in general, while 21.3 per cent are either slightly or not concerned at all,” the survey report, which was released on Tuesday, said.

“A significant 73.0 per cent of Canadians believe that climate change is affecting weather patterns, resulting in unpredictable weather patterns in Canada.”

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The survey said 61 per cent of the respondents said climate change was affecting Canada’s ability to produce food. Another 14.9 per cent said they believed the opposite, while 25.1 per cent said they had “some belief” that climate change was adversely affecting food production.

Of the respondents, 47.1 per cent said they were worried about food availability being affected by climate change, while 22.2 per cent said they were not concerned.

According to the survey, a total of 37.6 per cent of Canadians often or always consider the environmental impact of their food choices, while 29.4 per cent rarely or never do so.

At 48.1 per cent, Quebec had the highest percentage of people who considered the environmental impact of their food choices and Saskatchewan had the lowest at 26.4 per cent.

Some Canadians claim that they have already seen food availability being impacted by climate change. A total of 40.1 per cent of Canadians reported having noticed changes in the availability or variety of certain foods during the summer in recent years.

While 32.9 per cent said no, 27 per cent said they are not sure.

“We were intrigued to find that while Quebec leads in considering the environmental impact of food choices during hot weather, Saskatchewan lags behind,” Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, lab director at Agri-Food Analytics Lab, said.

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“Our study highlights the growing importance of climate-conscious eating habits and raises awareness about the need for sustainable practices in the agri-food sector. However, results show that as Canadians witness the effects of climate change on food availability, most remain confident about the future.”

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How meat grown from animal cells could help tackle climate change

According to a 2022 report, two-thirds of the world’s calories come from four staple foods: wheat, rice, maize and soybeans. At least 72 per cent of these crops are grown in just five countries: China, the United States, India, Brazil and Argentina.

A climate catastrophe in any one or more of these countries could send the entire world into a food crisis, the report said. That comes as India has restricted exports of rice products over recent months and as more countries face longer periods of drought and extreme weather.

The report said wheat – 65 per cent of which is produced in water-scarce environments – will be the most vulnerable of all the major staples.

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Climate change is already having an impact on food supplies, particularly in Canada.

“In Western Canada, multiple climate disasters – including extreme heat, drought and forest fires, followed swiftly by unprecedented rainfall, landslides and flooding – wreaked havoc on food production in 2021,” the report said.

“Wheat production plummeted by 35 per cent and canola by 14 per cent, 1.3 million farm animals died, and 80 per cent of commercial shellfish stocks were wiped out in a massive die-off.”

A 2021 report that called on the Canadian government to have an “increased focus to adapt crops and plants to become more resilient to more extreme weather.”

The report from the Food Systems Summit, convened by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, also called on the Canadian government to engage “with Canada’s Indigenous and remote communities to help address food security and production issues.”


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