Past Lectures

Insights into the Evolving Food Industry

Thursday, Mar 02, 2023

The pandemic has redefined Canada’s food purchasing habits in several ways as consumers emerge from a time of upheaval that is now into its third year. Rising geopolitical tensions, the war in Ukraine, inflation, and food insecurity have negatively impacted global food supply chains. In this session, Dr. Charlebois will present on global food security as well as the economics around food production and their impacts on the individual consumer.

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Food Technologies of Today and Tomorrow

Thursday, Feb 23, 2023

Our food systems are in a process of radical technological transformation, what some are calling the fourth agricultural revolution. Producing meat and dairy proteins without animals, once in the realm of science fiction, is attracting millions of dollars in investment for research and development and has even been commercialized in Singapore. You can now shop for lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs that have been grown in shipping containers without ever seeing sunlight. Fleets of tractors can seed, spray, and harvest thousands of acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat, without anyone behind the wheel. Cricket powder is readily available to buy from Amazon and is even on some store shelves in Canada. The promise of all these developments is to reduce the environmental footprint of farming, protect agriculture from a changing climate, and lower the cost of food for a growing global population. Yet, with any potentially disruptive technological innovation, there are a variety of social, environmental, and political consequences that must be explored, discussed, and publicly debated. In this lecture, we consider the potential consequences of two agri-food innovations for the global food system: alternative proteins and vertical farming. Dr. Glaros presents the results of research he has been undertaking for over seven years with government, industry partners, and not-for-profit organizations that explores these themes. We will consider the environmental sustainability of alternative proteins and vertical farming, their potential consequences for farmers, as well as the role of the public as active participants in governing agri-food innovations.

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Biophilia on the Dinner Plate: One Health, Wicked Problem, and Post Normal Science

Thursday, Feb 16, 2023

Health (as defined by the WHO) is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. One Health is the latest of many attempts to integrate the health of people, other animals, and the environments we share. These approaches were designed as strategies to promote sustainable human communities and to prevent infectious-disease epidemics. One Health presents us with a wicked problem, that is, a problem that resists solutions because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements, and in which the effort to solve one aspect of the problem may reveal or create other problems. Normal science brought to the verge of achieving a globally sustainable agri-food system, but in the process has created as many new problems as it has solved. In this context, Post Normal science was created to involve extended peer communities to address problems characterized by high levels of factual uncertainty, ethical conflicts, and requiring an urgent policy response. Indigenous and deep ecology worldviews grounded in biophilia, that is, a passionate love of all living things, ask us to take a radical shift in perspective. Today, when we look at the food on our dinner plates, we are faced with complex issues of gender, economic power and disparity, technology, animal welfare, political power, climate change and sustainability. Eating, for thoughtful people, has become fraught. In this presentation, I will explore some ways forward.

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The Impact of Organic Agriculture on Your Plate

Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

Many Canadian customers want access to organic food. The Canadian Organic Standards clearly define which food is, and which is not, organically certified. These standards are backed up by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Farmers, processors, distributors and retailers of organic products benefit from the extra value assigned to organic food. It makes sense to support the organic sector in Canada, with research and policies, so the economic opportunities can accrue here.
The extra cost of organic food for consumers can be assessed in the context of wasted food in Canada and preventable health costs. The yields of organic crops and livestock, while usually lower than those of non-organic systems, can be profitable and provide concurrent ecological benefits.
The global organic sector emphasizes the precautionary principle which is reflected in organic standards across the world. New technologies are assessed for their impact on the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment. Sometimes non-organic farmers discover their inputs carry high risks and then they adopt organic practices. The research and practices in organic agriculture have an ongoing positive impact on all agricultural systems.

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If You Ate Today, Thank a Migrant Worker. The Role and Conditions Facing Migrant Agricultural Workers in Canada

Thursday, Feb 02, 2023

For over 55 years, migrant workers have played a central role in Canadian agriculture. Migrating primarily from Mexico and the Caribbean for contracts of up to eight months a year, and tied to a particular employer, many of these workers spend the majority of their adult lives in Canada, yet most are never permitted the opportunity to immigrate, nor are they even integrated into local communities. In this talk, associate professor Janet McLaughlin and former migrant worker and author Gabriel Allahdua will describe the historical and contemporary context facing migrant workers who come to Canada to work as agricultural labourers. Sharing highlights from nearly 20 years of academic research (McLaughlin) as well as lived insights as a migrant worker and activist (Allahdua), the presentation will reveal the hidden realities of migrant workers. Topics include migrants’ central, yet normally overlooked, role in Canadian agriculture; family impacts of migration; living and working conditions; health and safety risks and issues (including the horrific toll of COVID-19); and barriers to accessing rights and benefits, including health care. In so doing, the presenters will underscore the human rights and health consequences of a system in which workers are welcomed in Canada as labourers, but not as citizens. Highlighting recent movements towards activism and reform, the lecture will also invite all in attendance to reflect on their role in making the ‘local’ food system more just, sustainable, and humane.

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Food systems in Northern Canada: Climate change impacts and opportunities to build sustainable food systems

Thursday, Jan 26, 2023

Climate change is having negative impacts on global food systems. But as temperature rises and ecosystems shift, we need to consider how we will feed ourselves in this uncertain future. In Canada, we need to understand the diverse and unique food systems across the country, including traditional food systems of northern Indigenous communities. This presentation will detail how northern food systems have been changing over time and continue to change due to climate change. Based on long term research relationships with northern communities, we will explore how climate change adaptation and ongoing work is preserving traditional food systems while exploring how locally growing food can support food security. This work offers insights into how northern communities are finding innovative ways to adapt and transform their food systems and offers lessons for ways forward as we continue to deal with the impacts of climate change globally.

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An Indigenous 'Responsibility-Based' Approach to Land Stewardship and Food Security

Thursday, Jan 19, 2023

The emergence of global environmental challenges like climate change and its many regional manifestations has presented new threats to Indigenous land and water resources the world over. Despite these new challenges, which compound the impacts of colonial legacies on traditional stewardship practices and governance frameworks, Indigenous Peoples continue to demonstrate formidable resilience and an unwavering “responsibility-based” approach to land stewardship and food security.
In this lecture, Dr. Sioui will provide an overview of key issues related to Indigenous land stewardship and food security in the Americas, based on his research experience as a Huron-Wendat geographer and environmental policy scholar.

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Re-connecting to the Land and to Community Through Food

Thursday, Jan 12, 2023

“To paraphrase John Muir (2003), if we try to pick out anything about food, we find it hitched to everything else in the world. It represents many things in the human experience; it is both material and abstract, biological and cultural, ephemeral and ongoing, scholarly and domestic, theoretical and quotidian. It also possesses enormous possibility for reform, as seen in recent efforts to re-embed food systems in ecosystems and cultural practice.” (Caitlin Morgan)
So what is a food system and why should we care about it? In this presentation, I will explore this question in relation to personal connections to land and place, and also the community scale, sharing some propositions for a regional food strategy (or action plan) for Waterloo Region, and stories I have learned about community building through food over the past 15 years of my connections to the Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region. I will share some actionable ideas for regenerating food systems to address the climate emergency and disconnection from the land.

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